There is an old saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover," which makes a lot of sense
in most instances. However, when I opened up the package containing my copy of Dead Fred,
Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle, I was immediately intrigued by what I saw.
The three children, a golden colored fish and what appeared to be a great white shark,
surrounded by a glowing nebula on the front cover, were tempting enough to make me want to
call up the other moms in our children's book club and tell them I had the next month's
selection without even reading it! When I opened the cover, my interest grew. There was a
picture of a group of children dressed in private school uniforms that were waving at me
excitedly from the inner flap. On the back flap was the picture of a man, obviously the
author, who looked like he might fit in better with 80s hair bands than the librarian set.
This is going to be good, I thought, and pulled up my comfy chair to enjoy the ride.
The storyline follows what appears to be a semi-autobiographical story of the author's
daughter and her chance meeting with a talking fish. The fish, King Frederick the Ninth, is
actually the ruler of an underwater kingdom, High Voltage, which is under attack by the evil
Megalodon, an ancient sea creature who wants to capture the power of the Eternal Life Circle
for itself. The main character, a 13 year old girl named Ppeekk, has to discover her inner
strength and rely on a host of magical helpers to overcome the creature and his minions and
save the world. Basically, good versus evil in an entertaining undersea setting.
Because the front cover also boldly compared Dead Fred to
Wizard of Oz, I developed high expectations very quickly. Those two books present
big shoes to fill, literature-wise. Since the publisher set up the comparison, it is
certainly worth mentioning since readers will likely form similar comparisons. In my opinion,
it was more like The
Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe meets
a new version of Narnia. The reading level was much less challenging than the
forementioned book and contained quite a few of the creepy elements one might expect from
the latter books. Whereas Goosebumps-type books are made to scare, this book was obviously
made to uplift. Any of the darker elements (e.g., remora fish that attached to the protagonist's
leg and drained the joy from her life) were easily balanced out by what could only be considered
Christian allegory, although the author's faith or religion were never blatantly stated.
With that said, Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes and the Good Luck Circle was great fun
to read without searching for any deeper meaning. However, if you are willing to delve beneath
the surface appearances, and look on what's inside, you will discover opportunities to discuss
the power, beauty and the delight in living that can be found to exist within each of us.