I'm sure many of us have dreamed of flying. I know I have. My flying dreams were among my more lucid ones. I'd dip and soar, going pretty much anywhere I wanted. But it's been a long time since I've had a flying dream. Maybe it's from getting older. Or maybe I've found a new way to fly that doesn't require dreams, such as my writing. Change doesn't have to be something to fear or regret. That is what Newton and Vanessa discover in The Things With Wings by Gregory J. Helch.
Angel Falls holds a secret, something connected to the Emerald Rainbow butterflies that stay for a week every spring on their migration path. Newton is a newcomer in town. Growing up with actors and constantly moving, he's become fearful of change, a watcher rather than a do-er. Vanessa has lived here all her life, and she wishes her middle name was Adventure. She tells him when they meet that she has always wanted to fly, has dreamed about it. When they realize their classmates have gone missing, her inquisitive and friendly nature pulls him into the middle of the mystery. But who is the strange man who keeps following them?
Now Newton must learn to accept that change cannot be stopped, nor should it be feared. Sometimes dreams can take wing through it. No one ever said growing up was easy.
The ending of this book almost made me toss it aside, looking like one of those "Was it just a dream?" endings. I promise it isn't. I'm glad I had the patience to finish, because despite the sense of sadness, a half-forgotten moment from the middle of the story allows for closure and hope that all is not lost. That change can be sad and promising at the same time. A good thing for tweens to remember as they enter their own big changes.
Humans aren't the only ones to have dreams. In Troll King by John Vornholt, Rollo would love to be able to enjoy the daytime. He imagines smelling flowers, chasing dragonflies, and napping where it is warm and dry. But it is risky to be out in the sunshine. Ogre patrols punish trolls caught out in the sun without a good reason. The ones allowed to work in the daytime are heavily guarded. Rollo would love to get off bridge building but isn't sure daytime work is worth being hemmed in by their masters.
Changes come to the Dismal Swamp when Stygius Rex, the ancient sorcerer who rules over all the ogres, ghouls, and trolls living in the land of Bonespittle, decides he wants to expand his territory by making a bridge over the Great Chasm. He needs the trolls to build it for him. Rollo ends up an unintended volunteer and then a crew leader during their training. His team gets chosen to be the first trolls to be flown over Rawchill River, a major obstacle on the way to the Chasm. Even though it is the sorcerer's magic, Rollo discovers flying to be a fascinating as he imagined. Maybe they really can bridge the Chasm and make peaceful contact with the elves and fairies who live in the Bonny Woods!
Because of his ingenuity in training and leadership over his crew, the sorcerer picks Rollo to help him and General Drool scout the other side of the Chasm. Again the flying magic is used on him to get there. And he is learning control over it now. The magic is contagious.
When Stygius Rex and General Drool capture Clipper, the fairy Rollo has talked into considering peaceful terms, Rollo has to decide who he is going to help. That decision will fly him into big changes for himself and the other trolls.
Vornholt crafted functioning societies and vivid descriptions. Trolls are not quite what you'd expect. He plays with preconceptions and puts his own spin on them. Despite some of the lack-luster reviews on Amazon, I enjoyed it. And I am going to be looking for The Troll Queen and The Troll Treasure to find out what happens next in Rollo's adventures. The Troll King will probably have more appeal with boys, but girls who enjoy more than just pink, cute critters, and other "girly" stuff will have fun with this, too. I think I would have enjoyed this when I was a tween.
(For the record, I loathed pink back then, even though I did enjoy some of the girly stuff like My Little Ponies. I like pink better now, but I still prefer it in small doses and in specific hues. Not particularly relevant but it gives you an idea of my sort of taste: eclectic.)