Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Arntson, Steven. The Trap.

Arntson, Steven.  The Trap.  Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt Brace  2015      247p  $16.99  ISBN 978-0-547-82408-6  ms/hs  Fantasy  VG-BN     

The day before the start of the school year in their new junior high school, twins Henry and Helen, along with best friends Nicki and Alan, decide to see what the town bully, Carl, has hidden in the woods.  Carl happens to be Alan’s brother, and when Carl discovers what the friends have been up to, he blackens Henry’s eye.  Carl then goes missing.  What they find in Carl’s hide-out are some interesting books, and Henry puts them in his rucksack.  He is particularly interested in the book he finds on the bottom of the pile, Subtle Travel and the Subtle Self.  He follows the directions in the book and finds himself in a new realm of existence.  The next day, he shares this with his sister and friends, and it leads them on a dangerous and adventuresome journey, as they realize this is the key to finding Carl.

This well-written, fast-paced novel is set in 1963 Iowa and touches on the civil-rights issues of the time. The themes of prejudice, the low job market, and the differences among people regarding race are carefully woven through the plot, and the story addresses the importance of treating people as human
beings, rather than discriminating based on racial or other differences.  The author has mastered thoughtful writing and the art of storytelling, and the reader will notice this as he or she “hears” the narration of these junior-high students.
The fantasy in this story almost feels realistic, as the true concepts of Fibonacci and the “subtle self” play out in the plot, leaving the reader to ask, “What if?  This book demands discussion, and young readers will be engaged and delighted with the adventure.  The Trap deserves recognition as a Book of Note.
Summary: Set in 1963 Iowa, twins Henry and Helen and best friends Nicki and Alan find their “subtle selves” and a new dimension of existence when they search for Carl, the town bully and Alan’s brother, and they discover a curious book among his things.            

Fantasy-Fiction, Civil rights-Fiction                       --Virginia McGarvey

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