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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Johnny & The Dead by Terry Pratchett

I had forgotten just how much I love Terry Pratchett’s wit. His jokes and puns can slip past you if you aren’t paying attention – I’ve read some of his books multiple times and still find jokes I didn’t catch the first time. Johnny & The Dead is full of that same humor; sometimes in-your-face laugh out loud funny, sometimes wry chuckle five seconds later (oh, I got it!). But it’s fun.

Summary: Johnny & The Dead is the second book in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy. I caught it on sale online and, since I am a fan of Pratchett, I decided to pick it up. I will now be in search of the other two books, as this was delightful and fun! And, it stood well alone. I didn’t feel I was missing anything despite not having read the first book.

Johnny Maxwell is a British school boy who just happens to be able to see the dead. Really! And the dead are not happy – the cemetery has just been sold (for a mere five pence) and they are going to be moved to make way for “Modern Purpose-Designed Offices.” As one cemetery resident says, “Last Resting Place, it said. It didn’t say After Eighty Years You’ll Be Dug Up and Moved…” Thus begins Johnny’s career as an activist, which includes attending a town meeting and asking the questions that the developers don’t want asked.

In the meantime, the “post life citizens” of the cemetery have become intrigued with the “outside” and decide to venture outside the confines of its walls. What they discover is a world beyond the limits of anything they had ever dreamed of, living or otherwise.

This story was full of funny moments, many courtesy of Johnny’s friends Bigmac, Yo-less, and Wobbler, who stand by Johnny even when convinced that he has lost all grip on reality. The “post life citizens” are also a great cast of characters, including Solomon Einstein (Albert’s lesser-known cousin who was a taxidermist), Stanley “Wrong Way” Roundabout (who holds the record for own goals in the history of any sport due to his poor sense of direction), and Vincent Fletcher (who invented a form of telephone which he said was better than Bell’s).

The characters made me care, the jokes made me laugh, and the ending made me smile.

Freedom (from unspoken expectations)

Age Appropriateness:
Grades 6 & up

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: none
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence: very mild

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