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Clabbernappers by Len Bailey
Review by Colleen Cahill
Starscape Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765309815
Date: 01 February, 2005 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

I could argue that we are in a golden age of children?s fantasy literature. This is not just because of the J.K. Rowling?s Harry Potter books or Philip Pullman?s His Dark Materials Trilogy, fine works that are sure to be classics, but because of the breadth of the genre, from Neil Gaiman?s Coraline to Terry Pratchett?s Wee Free Men, these works different and unique in their style, characters and plot. And once again, a new book appears that is unlike all these others, excepting that it is a rousing tale that is perfect for children and adults. Len Bailey takes us from Oklahoma to the world of Clabbernappers, an adventure that has cowboys, pirates, magic and chess.

When young Danny Ray, best rodeo cowboy in Oklahoma ?Junior Division, of course, wins at a dart game at the county fair, he chooses a prize that leads to adventure. This lands him in Elidor and the largest chess set he has ever seen; one so large, people are living in it. Brought before King Krystal, Danny takes on the job of rescuing a kidnapped queen, with the aid of some lords, sailors and one spoiled-rotten prince. If he fails, the Princess Amber will be forced to marry the evil King Dru Mordeloch. In only two weeks Danny must search Elidor, find the queen and return her in time for a match between the two kings.

This is a story of fun and good humor, and it will certainly be compared to the Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz books. Bailey gives us some amazing landscapes, as with the Checkered Sea, which is a black and white grid that can be walked on, which Danny does and learns there are risks to such a stroll. The vessels that sail this sea are rooks and bishops, some manned by the murderous insect-like Sarkas pirates. The use of language throughout is wonderful: from Tantarrabobs to Mumpokers to Captain Quigglewigg, you can tell the author takes joy in using names that roll off the tongue. Various cultures are also mixed, as there is a bit of medieval kingdom, an Arabian Nights city ruled by a Sultana, and even some Horatio Hornblower. In the acknowledgments, Bailey not only notes C. S. Forester?s work, but also that of Patrick O?Brian, plus E. R. Eddison?s The Worm Ouroboros as inspirations to his work.

Clabbernappers is a book for boys, girls and those who enjoy a playful tale. I recommend this eclectic mix of questing and humor, all with something just a bit different from the other books you have read.

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