________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 38. . . . June 1, 2018


The Land of Yesterday.

K. A. Reynolds.
New York, NY: Harper (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollinsCanada), July 31, 2018.
255 pp., hardcover, $21.00.
ISBN 978-0-06-267392-3.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Cecelia stood by the window and let the overcast sky light her intergalactic map. It covered an entire wall. Looing at it usually helped her relax.

In the center of the giant map was her own small world, which included the town of Hungrig. The Stratosphere of Now, a wonderfully gassy asteroid belt, surrounded her planet and housed the brave souls who flew the mysterious Intergalactic Taxies to Yesterday: the infamous Aeronautic Gnomes. Only rarely did they show themselves. But when they did it was always to help those in the direst need.

In the upper-right quadrant of her map hung a planet called Earth. The cosmic outlaw, Stella the Invincible, who lived there for a while, said it mirrored Hungrig almost exactly. She even wrote one of Cecelia's favorite books, Heroes of Earth, which included one of her favorites, a girl called Joan of Arc. Infinite other planets and stars of all sizes, shapes, and colors dotted everywhere else. Yet, as grand as her map was, it, like every other she knew of, failed to contain the perilous and foridden Land of Yesterday: the floating black desert where souls went when their bodies died -- the land where Celadon lived now, and where her mother was currently headed.

Some claimed the Land of Yesterday didn't exist. The few cartographers who did believe refused to put it on a map. When Cecelia has asked her father why, he'd told her, "If people knew how to get to Yesterday, they'd leave Today, and the world would be nothing but ghosts."

But if it didn't exist, then where were her mother and brother now?


Imagine a world where houses have souls and can heal (that is, repair) themselves; where a person's hair has a will and power of its own to help or hinder; and where, if you are persevering enough, you may be able to travel to Yesterday and change tomorrow. The emphasis here is on the "may"!

     Even with all the fantastical elements of Hungrig, many of which Cecelia's teacher doesn't believe in, though the students all know them to be true, some things remain constant. Within families, parents still love their children unconditionally, even though they may not seem to, siblings still fight, tell tales on one another, and love/hate each other in almost equal measure. And promises are made in good faith and then forgotten. Also accidents happen, even fatal accidents, and, when they do, a cycle of guilt and blame is set up that is very hard to change or dispell.

     This is the world where we find ourselves, in a house named Widdendream, with the family of Dahls: Aubergine and Mazarine (parents) and Cecilia (11) and Celadon (9). Unfortunately, it is now "the late Celadon" ever since that night six weeks before when he lost his balance at the top of the stairs and fell to his death. The resulting mix of grief, blame, and guilt sends Mazarine to the Land of Yesterday to try to find him, and her departure, plus the house’s own feelings of guilty responsibility, turns their loving house into a monster dwelling bent on revenge. It imprisons Aubergine, torturing him for his part in Mazarine's departure, all the while goading Cecelia into trying to bring her back.

     That Cecelia accepts the challenge and rises to it is the story here in all its fantastic elements. The Land of Yesterday is a dark book. As the blurb on the back says, it will appeal to readers who liked “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, though it lacks the vocabulary-expanding definitions and the disasterous ending(s) of those books. I preferred it, actually. Cecelia, with her midnight-blue hair, some help from a few people (using the term loosely) she meets along the way, and inspiration from her Joan of Arc action figure, conquers her fears, overcomes difficulties including apparently turning into a paper Dahl, and finds her mother. And her brother? Well, that's for me to know and you to find out, as they say.


Mary Thomas lives half the year in Winnipeg, MB, and half elsewhere. Travel as Cecilia did in an Intergalactic Taxi balloon manned by Astronautic Gnomes has real appeal, especially if it is faster than Air Canada, though she would rather stay in Now than go to Yesterday.

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

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