The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York: A Yarn for the Strange at Heart

illus. by Kory Merritt. 128p. Andrews McMeel. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781449471002. LC 2015937245.
Gr 4–7—Jonathan York, the drab, anxious protagonist of this unusual fairy tale, has taken a shortcut through a menacing swamp and is now lost. He meets a group of travelers who invite him to find refuge in a secluded inn that is run by an unusual elderly couple. The innkeepers will allow the group to stay for a price—not money, but rather a story of adventure to help remind them of their younger days. One by one the travelers recall colorful tales that are presented in rich, descriptive detail and accompanied by quirky illustrations done in subdued tones. The stories are full of dark humor and nonsensical words that call to mind Roald Dahl (is that an Oompa Loompa chained in a dungeon?!). Retelling an exciting escapade is no easy task for York, as he has lived a purposefully uneventful and risk-free life. With no tale to offer, he is sent back into the eerie night. After an odd little man offers a suggestion for where he might spend the night, York falls into the lair of a motley assortment of thieves and is coerced into assisting the gang on a highly dangerous treasure hunt. Being forced to participate in such treacherous quests has unexpected results: the once-meek York begins to feel exhilarated and to embrace his adventurous side. York concludes with the moral of the story: sometimes you have to take risks to keep from being a person with No Story.
VERDICT With fantastical Tim Burton-esque creatures and rich language, this tale will appeal to a wide audience (including adults).

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