________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 8. . . .October 23, 2009


Endymion Spring.

Matthew Skelton.
London, UK: Puffin Books (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2006.
443 pp., pbk., $10.99.
ISBN 978-0-141-32034-2.

Grades 6-9 / Age 11-14.

Review by Vikki VanSickle.

*** /4



He opened the book.

His fingers were jittery, but even so the pages flickered of their own accord—as though an invisible hand had reached across time or space and was searching for the best place to begin.

He held his breath, amazed.

Some of the pages were stuck together, joined at the edges, unopened, while others unfolded like maps without obvious destinations. They reminded him of the origami birds he had once seen a Japanese lady making on television. There were no lines on the paper, unlike a notebook, and no sections to write in, unlike a diary; and yet there were no printed pages, so far as he could see, so it couldn’t be a regular novel either. It was as if he had discovered a completely blank book. But what was a book without words doing in a library?

There seems to be a growing number of books published specifically for children who love books. They tend to be fantasies that surround a book or library with otherworldly significance. Cornelia Funke’s popular Inkspell trilogy, Michael Ende’s classic The Neverending Story, and Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza series fall under this category which gives a nod to booklovers by making the central character a bookworm who falls into an incredible adventure. Matthew Skelton’s Endymion Spring is a nice addition to this group.

     The book alternates between the story of two boys, Blake, who is staying in present day Oxford with his professor mother and gifted know-it-all sister, and Endymion Spring, a mute apprentice in 15th century Mainz, who works for Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. Blake finds himself in possession of an odd book that literally falls into his hands one day from the shelves of a library. The book appears to be full of blank pages, until a riddle materializes that only Blake can see. What follows is an engaging mystery, involving a Faustian pact, literary riddles, and historical fact.

     Though this is a work of fantasy, Skelton roots his novel firmly in the historical founding of the printing press, embellishing on the lives of real historical figures. He also references classic literature, such as Rossetti’s poem “Goblin’s Market.” The reader does not need to be familiar with these allusions to enjoy the story, but it is a literary treat for those eager children who adore real facts and a sense of history mixed in with their fiction.

     Skelton is clearly a writer who loves the sound of words, and his language is lush and sumptuous. Like many traditional writers of children’s fantasy, he spends a lot of time crafting detailed descriptions of his characters and the world they inhabit, which may be tiresome for some readers, but fantasy readers will no doubt eat it up and ask for more.


Vikki VanSickle has an MA in Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia. She is a writer and manager of The Flying Dragon Bookshop in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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