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Goblin Secrets [Kindle Edition]

William Alexander
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $6.99
Kindle Price: $6.49
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

In the National Book Award–winning Goblin Secrets, a boy joins a theatrical troupe of goblins to find his missing brother.

In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who has clockwork chicken legs and moves her house around—much like the fairy tale figure of Baba Yaga. Graba takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared.

Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan—because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river.

This accessible, atmospheric fantasy takes a gentle look at love, loss, and family while delivering a fast-paced adventure that is sure to satisfy.

Editorial Reviews


* "Rownie’s search for his brother turns into an unlikely heroic quest. . . . Though highly textured, it’s tightly woven and reassuringly seamless. The result is wryly humorous and bearably yet excitingly menacing: Even while much is left unexplained, Rownie’s triumph is both gripping and tantalizing."--Kirkus Reviews, *STAR

"Alexander has an intriguing central theme, in which masks and theater create actual magic . . . The result is a (sometimes gruesome) fantasy stuffed with interesting ideas."--Publishers Weekly

"The appeal here lies in Alexander’s careful construction of a distinctive world: touches of steampunk can be found in Graba’s geared-up legs and the Mayor’s automaton guards while a more ancient, primal magic seems to guide the goblins and their powerful brand of storytelling. . . . The bittersweet ending remains true to the story’s overall dreamy, melancholic tone."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The story weaves a many-webbed tale, rich in imagination with a fairy-tale feel."--School Library Journal

"The mythic resonance in Alexander's storytelling, coupled with his smart, graceful writing, make this novel feel both pleasantly old and thoroughly new." - Locus Magazine

"William Alexander organizes his atmospheric first novel into acts and scenes, rather than chapters, and he couches it in the beautifully elliptical language of the old fairy tales." (Washington Post)

About the Author

William Alexander won the National Book Award for his debut novel, Goblin Secrets, and won the Earphones Award for his narration of the audiobook. His other novels include Ghoulish Song, Ambassador, and Nomad. William studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at the Clarion workshop. He teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Like the protagonist of Nomad and Ambassador, William is a second generation Latino immigrant to the US. Visit him online at and, and on Twitter via @williealex.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6370 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; Reprint edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0055OGG90
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,563 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, original, beautiful. March 6, 2012
A beautifully-written children's book that breaks the mold. I've never read anything quite like it. The book gently submerges the reader into a mysterious world of strange and wholly original magic, where masks have power and sometimes, through the art of performance, you may discover hidden truths about the world, and yourself.

During a brunch with friends, my husband picked up this book out of curiosity, casually flipped it open to the first page, and that was the last we saw of him for the rest of the morning -- he was too busy reading! He loved it, and we brought it home to give to our fifth grade son.

Evocative and poetic: this really is a special book. Highly recommended for kids (or the rest of us) who love anything to do with theater, magic, excitement, goblins, masks, or beautiful writing. A haunting story that sparks the imagination like those favorite fantasy novels you loved as a kid. This is the good stuff.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful read for all, young and old. April 5, 2012
If Neil Gaiman and Charles Dickens were to sit down at a pub, somewhere near where the Olde London Bridge used to span the Thames, and trade ideas for a story, Goblin Secrets may have been their creation. Fortunately, we have a brilliant young new author to thank for devising this compelling new world around the city of Zombay. What I wouldn't give to stroll across the Fiddleway Bridge into the twisted streets and misshapen buildings of The Southside. Alexander's style and exceptional prose draws your imagination into this wonderful world with ease providing a fresh yet subtle new take on magic. It is important that we discover, especially at a young age, that magic is something that is elusive and mysterious, not something that we just casually pull out of thin air on a whim with just a few words and a wave of a wand.

I want to quote a small passage taken from this book that evoked more emotion within me than a book has accomplished in a long long time.

"He felt his anger drain away. He didn't want to let it go. He fought to keep it. Anger kept him moving. It kept him warm. But now words fell out of his mouth like cold pebbles."

The context surrounding this passage lent so much more power to these words, but you'll have to read the book to discover this for yourself.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read It Aloud at Bedtime March 27, 2012
I'm reading Goblin Secrets to my nine-year-old and he loves it. So fun to hear my kid burst out laughing at the moments of fun ridiculousness (a refined sense of whimsy in this book). Rownie is a great main character -- curious, open-minded, upbeat, game. The plot is winding and wild, with truly odd moments that continually made my son perk up and listen closely, as opposed to many stories whose rhythms are already predictable to him. (That said, there's good schtick in Goblin Secrets, too).

A very fun story for grown-ups to read out loud.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but didn't grab me December 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Literary and what would probably be called "lyrical" tale of orphan Rownie in odd, vaguely olde English "gearworks" town, who is looking for brother Rowan and becomes entranced with goblins who perform in masks. While the writing was interesting to me (as an adult reader), the story never worked for me. Parts are lovely to read, but overall I found the plot is filled with oddities and the orphan names all ran together. There is nothing wrong with the book, and clearly, as it was the National Book Award Young People's Literature winner, there are many people who liked it. It just didn't grab me in any emotional way and I am hard pressed to think of what young reader of my acquaintance I could recommend it to.
About me: I'm a middle school/high school librarian
How I got this book: purchased for the library
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret is Out: A marvelous Fantasy Tale! June 24, 2012
I love it when a book makes me throw out my presuppositions and biases and actually yanks me by the shirt into the story before I know what's happening. So I picked this up after I put my last book down and thought "oh, a goblin book. I really don't like goblins . . . and goblin books tend to be full of comic scenes and gross stuff. Sigh."

It's so nice to be knocked on my proverbial butt for making a judgement based on a title. It restores my faith in books and writing.

Goblin Secrets takes place in the city of Zombay, a place strange and oppressive where masks and plays are not allowed and only goblins may perform. A place where gears and mechanical devices combine with magic and curses and witchery. The orphan Rownie lives in this town, running errands for the woman who cares for him and the odd and end other orphans in her home. Until the day he sees the goblins perform a play, and runs away to join them, hoping to find his lost brother and find out who he is. But other forces are chasing him, and a time is coming soon where Rownie will have to act in order to save the city and discover the person he is meant to be.

William Alexander plunges readers into his magical urbanesque environment with no apologies or explanations. It's a tightly told story with suspense and magic and evocative descriptions. The world building is superbly done, painting a unique picture of this landscape. Unlike some stories that take the grand scale fantasy world and give readers a panoramic view, this story remains seated in one city and the rise and fall of that city and its denizens. I'm not certain if Alexander intends to explore this world further, since this book is a satisfying stand-alone, but I'd be happy to dive in if he so decides.

Just marvelous fun, great imagination and something I wasn't expecting--which will keep me humble!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My 7 year old daughter and I liked this story so much that we named...
My 7 year old daughter and I liked this story so much that we named our new puppy after the main character.
Published 3 months ago by Storm
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing novel, brings a world to life
Wow! This book is well written, intelligent, and amazingly imaginative. Alexander brings a world to life and makes the reader care almost instantly. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Christine Kimball
5.0 out of 5 stars morgan family
Read to my 7 and 9 yo. Fun book, lots of imagery that probably went over their heads but as a parent I loved it.
Published 14 months ago by C. Morgan
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming... a different take on goblins, plays, and masks
My "YA" days are but a memory now, but I picked up this book when it was a Kindle Daily Deal a while back. Overall, it was a very charming read. Read more
Published 15 months ago by justme
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes! Buy this
There was so much of this novel that caught my fancy. The house that moves, goblins, mechanical guardsmen, masks....the list goes on and on. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Victoria
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and unique
I really enjoyed this book. It was such a departure from typical stores in this genre. It might have some themes that are a little dark for younger readers, but my 9-year old... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jumesan
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, fast-paced and delightful!
The story is interesting and so well-crafted that child or adult can enjoy it. The Baba Yaga makes an appearance in role of villainess--in a very interesting way.
Published 15 months ago by Melinda D. Wiselka
4.0 out of 5 stars A great fun read where goblins aren't the bad guys
Interesting story blending the myths of Baba Yaga, with goblin lore, and with a little clockwork. Told from the point of view of a young child in the clutches of "Graba"... Read more
Published 15 months ago by someguy
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
My ten year old grandson loves reading. This looks like a book I know he will definitely enjoy. Good price.
Published 16 months ago by maria
4.0 out of 5 stars While I really did like this story
Zombay is an odd town, split into two by a powerful river. While the north side of town is orderly and neat, the south side is disorganized and often frightening; it is also where... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amber Mc.
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