Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Emily and Navin are moving. Unable to afford their home after her husband’s death, Karen has decided to move the family to a house that has been in the family for years. Unused and filthy, but paid for. In their cleaning attack, the kids end up in Great-Grandpa Silas’s library. Emily and Navin discover books and portraits and all variety of gadgets and inventions. Most importantly, Emily discovers an amulet necklace that attaches itself around her neck.

Someone…or something…in the library, however, also discovers them. A ghostly phantom escapes a heating duct. A shadowy creature observes the family’s activities.

That night, their first in the new house, the amulet awakens Emily and gives her a message. “Emily. Listen carefully. Your family is in danger. Stay with them. Keep them safe.” Safe from what, Emily wonders, but the amulet is silent once again. Later that night, mysterious noises draw the family’s attention. Mom is quick to investigate the origin in the basement, ordering the kids to stay upstairs. Emily obeys her mother, disregarding the amulet’s warning.

And Mom disappears.

Following her screams through a basement door, Emily and Navin find themselves in an alternate Earth, a world of odd creatures, and odd family secrets, including what happened to Great-Grandpa Silas. They meet Miskit, Ruby, Cogsley, and Morrie – a pink rabbit, vacuum cleaner (I think), and two robots, respectively. They also discover that Great-Grandpa Silas had somehow selected Emily to continue his work. She must choose: accept the amulet/stone and it’s power/risks/abilities/dangers, the chance to rescue her mother, and even the possibility of turning back time or simply turn it away.

The Stonekeeper begins with a prologue of the night Emily’s father died two years earlier. It is a brief account, but readers immediately feel the power of Kazu Kibuishi’s art. As the family drives to pick up Navin, there is an accident. The car crashes through a guard rail, flips, and slides down a steep, snowy embankment. It comes to rest against a tree on the edge of a cliff. Emily and her mother get out, but David’s legs are trapped under the dashboard. The car begins to slide, the tree gives way, and a husband and father is lost.

Immediately the prologue illustrates so clearly how graphic novels can quickly show what takes pages to describe in a traditional novel. Seeing David’s hand slowly slip out of Karen’s as the car shifts. Seeing Emily’s feet rise off the ground as she tries unsuccessfully to hold the tipping car down by its front bumper. Readers immediately know the desperation and heartbreak felt by the family. Kibuishi’s art continues to hold readers’ attention throughout this action packed book.

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