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Any Which Wall Hardcover – May 26, 2009

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About the Author

Laurel Snyder’s first novel, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, and her first picture book, Inside the Slidy Diner, have delighted readers both young and old. She wrote Any Which Wall as a tribute to Edward Eager and Edith Nesbit, both of whom have influenced her work. She and her family live in Atlanta, Georgia. Visit her online at

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

“Wow,” said Henry, staring up.

Everyone agreed: the wall was “wow.” It looked like something from another place and time, ancient and mysterious, leaning over them. They just stood.

Gaping. Up.

“It’s so big,” said Roy after a while. “What do you think it was? I mean, what did it start out as, back when it was built?”

“A castle!” Emma answered right away with absolute certainty. “A big giant castle. For when people needed to hide from Indians and wolves and for olden-time princesses to stay in when they visited Iowa.”

“Mmmmm. More likely a farmhouse,” said Susan.

“I don’t think there are a lot of castles in Iowa, Em–”

“Actually, Susan,” said Roy, “I don’t think a farmhouse makes any more sense than a castle. It’s too huge for a house. Plus, if it were part of a house, it’d have some windows in it, right? And maybe a door?”

They all looked up and agreed that the wall didn’t have any windows in it, or doors either. Susan frowned.

“Maybe it was a really enormous barn?” Roy guessed. “But it doesn’t matter much. The big question is, what can we do with it?”

The others agreed. Clearly, something so interesting and rare needed to be put to good use.

“I guess it could be a kind of fort,” said Susan at last, “if we leaned some branches against it, maybe. But they’d have to be really long branches.”

“And where would we get the branches from?” asked Roy, thinking practically. “Drag them from town?”

“Who cares!” said Henry impatiently. “We can figure out what to do with it later. In the meantime, we should claim it.”

“Claim it?” asked Emma.

“Yeah, Em. Like when someone finds a planet or walks on the moon or something. Or back in pioneer days, when they staked out homesteads in the Wild West. It’s our wall now. We found it, and we need to claim it before someone else does. Right, Roy?”

“We can if you want to.” Roy nodded thoughtfully.

“Although technically it belongs to whoever owns this field.”

Henry ignored this comment. Roy was his best friend and always had been, but sometimes it was necessary to ignore Roy in the name of fun. Henry wished his friend could understand that “technically” didn’t always matter.

“But what are we going to claim it with?” Henry asked. “We should have a flag or a sign or something, a way to let people know that it’s our wall. What have you guys got?”

They all emptied their pockets.

Henry had half a pack of very pungent bubble gum (the same gum that had left his hair a sticky mess), a handful of change, a crumpled dollar bill, the cell phone his mother made him carry, and a red rubber ball. Emma found one of the green handlebar tassels from her new bike (already pulled loose), a smiling-tooth sticker from the dentist’s office, and another crumpled dollar bill.

Susan found a tube of sparkle lip gloss, ten dollars (emergency money), a cell phone nobody ever had to remind her to carry, and a barrette. Roy found a funny looking rock, a compass, and a mouse skull, which is not nearly as gross as it sounds. He pulled the skull out last, and it gleamed fragile and white in his hand.

“I don’t know how we can make a sign or a flag with any of this stuff,” said Henry, “but that”–he pointed at the skull–“gives me another idea. You know what would be awesome?” The others did not know, so Henry told them. “We should have some kind of ceremony. Make a sacrifice and say a prayer of thanks, like when shipwrecked people find a desert island. To thank the spirits of the field, or whatever, for letting us find the wall.” Henry was excited. This would involve digging, jumping around, and make-believe: three of his favorite things.

Henry began to make a chanting noise that sounded like “Oh-ee-oh-ee,” and bowed down to the wall. After a while, he turned and looked back at the others, wondering why nobody else had joined in his wordless song. They were all just watching him.

“A sacrifice?” Emma looked nervous.

Henry stopped chanting and sighed. “I don’t mean a scary kind of sacrifice,” he explained. “I mean a fun sacrifice.”

“If we’re going to do a sacrifice, we should do it right,” said Susan. “A sacrifice should mean giving up something more than an old piece of bone.” She eyed the skull with distaste. “A sacrifice should be something
you care about. Something you want to keep. That’s the definition of sacrifice, isn’t it? That way, the spirits will know we’re serious.”

The others stared at her when she said the word “spirits.” This didn’t sound like the Susan they’d gotten used to over the last year, the Susan who ignored them and sometimes made fun of their games. This seemed more like the old Susan, and though they were delighted to welcome her return, they were all a little shocked.

She noticed them staring and stared right back, in a bug-eyed sort of way.
“What?” she said. “I just mean– you know, if there are spirits.”

Roy prodded her. “So, you think we need to give up something that matters to us?”

Susan nodded.

“Like . . . your cell phone?” asked Roy with a sneaky smile.

“Yeah,” said Henry, smirking. “You sure do like that.

“No way,” said Susan, putting it back in her pocket immediately. “Absolutely not. Mom and Dad would kill me.”

“What about the money, then?” asked Emma.

Of all the things they were carrying with them, their money did seem like the only thing they had worth giving up, besides their two cell phones, which–everyone had to admit–they’d get skinned alive if they lost. It didn’t seem likely that the spirits of the field would want a plastic tassel or some gum, so while Roy dug a hole at the base of the wall, Susan collected Emma and Henry’s dollars.

“On second thought,” Susan asked, holding up the money, “do you think just the two is enough? Plus the change? I feel bad giving the rest away, since it’s not my money. It really belongs to Mom.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Henry. “Just take my dollar and Emma’s but keep your own money. That seems fair.”

Despite Henry’s grousing, they all agreed that two dollars should be plenty of sacrifice to gratify the spirits of the field, if there were such spirits. Last of all, Roy added the small white skull gently to the pile of money in the hole. It seemed right, since the mouse had likely been a field mouse. They all scrabbled the pile over with dirt.

When Henry’s hand touched something hot and smooth, he jumped back. “Ow!” he yelped.

“What is it?” asked Emma.

Henry bent to pick up the hot something-or-other, then held it up so that they could all see. It was a large skeleton key the size of a teaspoon, so caked with dirt that none of them had noticed it lying camouflaged on the ground. Henry wiped it against his shirt, and as the dirt flaked off, everyone saw it was made of a bronzy kind of metal, with a rough surface and fancy scrollwork at the top.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 810L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Young Hoosier Intermediate Awards 2011-2012
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375855602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375855603
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,328,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've been writing pretty devotedly, in one form or fashion, since I was about seven. In the fourth grade, I announced to the world that I planned to become "rich and famous writing books and plays for children!" Then I intended to adopt every stray dog and cat in the city of Baltimore and move them all into an old mansion, not far from where I lived.

Well, I'm not rich by any means, I live in a rather small brick house, and I only have one cat, but I am (blessedly) writing books for kids, and I couldn't be more amazed or delighted.

Most days I spend with my sons (who are tiny) smeared with peanut butter, finger paint, and silly joy. But late at night, I write these books... and I hope you'll read one...

And if you like that book, (or even if you don't) I hope you'll write to me, and say hello!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Stephen A. Bramucci on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm not going to summarize Any Which Wall for you. I'm not going to describe the character arcs or unfold exactly how the plot turns. That would be something akin to handling the wings of a butterfly -- and steal some of the magic from this beautiful, timeless book.

I will tell you this: The second I opened Any Which Wall I felt dropped into a special kind of story. I knew on page one that the book held something incredible. It is the type of book that kids read on long summer afternoons with a foot dangling down from the eaves of an oak tree while drinking lemonade from a mason jar.

It is engaging and incredibly clearly rendered.

The world doesn't hang in the balance, there are no evil necromancers, no superpowers...But that doesn't mean that the book can't zip along. It does.

It is the type of middle-grade book that I hope stays in print for a hundred years-- the type Edward Eager wrote. And it holds magic-- transporting me to the basement of my grandmother's house by the sea-- where I would curl up at night as a boy discovering a love of storytelling. Where the shelves seemed endlessly stocked with the books that my mother, aunts and uncles read when they were young. Books with pen and ink illustrations, tales of adventure and heart...Books like this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sheila L. Beaumont VINE VOICE on July 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prefaced by a quotation from Edward Eager's "Seven Day Magic," this delightful tale of "common magic" is a homage to that popular children's author of the 1950s and early '60s, who wrote "Half Magic," "Knight's Castle" and other fun stories of children finding magic in the everyday world. It's also, indirectly, a homage to early-20th-century author E. Nesbit, since Eager's own books were a homage to Nesbit, who gave us such entertaining tales as "Five Children and It" and "The Phoenix and the Carpet."

In "Any Which Wall," four children, ages 6 to 12, by keeping their eyes and imaginations open, discover a magic wall on a summer's day in an Iowa cornfield. They find out the wall will take them to other places and times, and once they figure out exactly how the magic works, it takes them to the real Camelot, where they meet Merlin, who is not what they expected. On a visit to a pioneer-day version of their own town, Quiet Falls, the children rescue an abused dog, bring her back home, bathe her and treat her injuries, and eventually find the big, lovable canine a good home in an unexpected place (and time).

There's even a hint of Narnia here, in the name of the oldest child, Susan. Fortunately, this Susan, though she is growing up, does a better job of holding on to her childhood interests than the Narnia Susan does. And we meet a wonderful librarian, named Lily, who is grown up in the practical ways that are necessary yet keeps enough of her childhood to be a kindred spirit to the children.

Adding to the magic are the excellent illustrations of LeUyen Pham. I think "Any Which Wall" will appeal both to fans of fantasy and to readers who enjoy stories about ordinary kids. And it's not just for middle-graders but also for adults who have fond memories of the books of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cheri Williams on December 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In Laurel Snyder's second middle-grade novel, Any Which Wall, long-time friends Henry, Roy, Susan and Emma are out of school for the summer and bored, bored, bored in their sleepy little town, until, hidden in an Iowa cornfield, they discover a mysterious wall--and an even more mysterious key.

"They pedaled forward slowly, and in a few minutes, the tall dark thing became a bigger dark thing. Finally it turned into a wall made of gray and black stones, heavy rough squares, each about the size of a large suitcase. As tall as City Hall and about that wide, the wall looked precarious, tilting toward them" (page 19).
Together, the two sets of siblings realize the wall is more than mysterious--it's magical. It can take them to any place, at any time. They soon find themselves traveling far and wide, having adventures and learning that magic just might look a little different than they thought.

Written as a tribute to Edgar Eager and E. Nesbit this Junior Library Guild Selection by master storyteller, Laurel Snyder is lyrical, nostalgic, classic and timeless. Told by a fun and spunky narrator and peppered with delightful illustrations by LeUyen Pham, Any Which Wall veritably begs to be read aloud.

Fun, fast-paced and fantastical with characters to love. These kids aren't singlehandedly battling evil. They don't hold the world's fate in their hands. They're regular kids who remember what friendship is about and who create a little magic of their own. They remind the reader to slow down, to enjoy life's ordinariness and to always, always, keep their eyes and imagination open. Magic still happens. A valuable lesson indeed.

From the Christian Library Journal; used by permission.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By aliceknd on April 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is sort of a tribute to Edward Eager's delightful "Half Magic" (which I recommend, by the way). Four children discover a magic wall which dispels their summer boredom, and, of course, they learns some lessons along the way. It's not as original as Half Magic (because, as the author will admit, she stole ideas from it), but it's lots of fun and kids will enjoy it. I appreciate books like this that entertain without using bad language or crude behavior, and have plenty of adventure and excitement, but no violence.

Age Recommendation: 7 - 12 years (great for read-aloud)
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