What Came from the Stars
by Gary D. Schmidt
Middle School Clarion 293 pp.
9/12 978-0-547-61213-3 $16.99 g
Schmidt brings high heroic fantasy and contemporary realism together in this novel of a bereaved family. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, Tommy grieves for his mother, who died eight months ago. And on a distant planet in “Weoruld Ethelim,” Young Waeglim invests all the Art of the destroyed Valorim — his culture — into a chain necklace, sending it into the universe to keep it safe from evil Lord Mondus. When the chain falls through worlds and lands in Tommy’s lunchbox, it brings Tommy vivid memories of the Valorim — and gives him superhuman abilities, including the power to create paintings that move and to conjure alien creatures from sand. But Lord Mondus wants the chain himself, and Tommy is caught up in a fight that mingles humdrum real estate chicanery with cosmic greed; the school bully with an epic warrior; and human consolation with celestial triumph. Schmidt gives us two parallel stories, one told in the formal, archaic style of epic Tolkienesque fantasy, with Old English and biblical resonances; the other in down-to-earth contemporary language. Gradually, the two styles merge, underscoring that inner change is itself the stuff of classic heroism. The life and power of Art is central to this artful interplanetary story in which a boy misses his mother “like he would miss the planet.”
From the September/October 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.