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Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle

by Frank McKinney with Kate Mason


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 Narnia and The 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 Goosebumps than 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.

The Book

Health Communications, Inc.
February 13, 2009
Tweener fiction / /Age Group: 9-12
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The Reviewer

Donna Ross
Reviewed 2010
NOTE: Reviewer Donna Satterlee Ross is the co-editor of That's Life with Autism: Tales And Tips for Families With Autism and is currently working on a new book about autism and humor.
© 2010