Review of The Book of Fatal Errors

The Book of Fatal Errors
by Dashka Slater
Intermediate    Farrar    322 pp.    g
7/20    978-0-374-30119-4    $16.99

Slater (winner of a Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction honor for The 57 Bus, rev. 1/18) here presents an entertaining, fantastical summertime story. Twelve-year-old Rufus’s grandfather lives at Feylawn, an estate overtaken by nature and, as Grandfather puts it, prone to “cantankerous” moods. Though his parents don’t like him spending time there, Rufus loves Feylawn and wishes he could spend his whole vacation exploring. Rufus’s summer takes a bizarre turn, though, when he finds a small train on the grounds and discovers that “feylings,” or fairies, live at Feylawn and are waiting for that very train to take them back to the Green World from which they came. Rufus and his highly accomplished cousin Abigail have to sneak around the adults’ suspicion in order to help the stranded feylings return home. The entertaining and lively story line is unhindered by side-quests or complications, setting Rufus and Abigail on a fairly straightforward adventure. Sassy feylings and other rambunctious magical creatures make the tale feel fresh, while the drama from opposing fairy factions (and nefarious shopkeepers) never gets too scary. Rufus’s self-confidence grows with every chapter, and realistic tension between his family members works itself out in a satisfactory, but not simplistic, way.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Berman

Sarah Berman is a middle school special education assistant. She attended the University of St. Andrews, where she studied literature and wrote a dissertation about violence in children's fiction. 

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