From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard hungers for adventure, but she's stuck in Middle America. When her mother's law firm sends the family to Oxford, England, Holly rejoices even as her younger brother, Ben, frets about high-speed Internet access. Once the family is settled into their new home, Holly receives a mysterious key and a cryptic riddle from their cottage caretaker. Holly, Ben, and their neighbor Everett enter the woods and use the key to open a doorway to Anglielle, an alternative, magical England. When Ben and Everett become the prisoners of Prince Avery, Holly finds help from the members of a hidden community that wishes to overthrow the current regime and release magic users and creatures from oppression. They claim she is an "Adept," someone who can wield great magic, and she must access her new powers to help free the boys. Meanwhile, Everett's decision to steal another key has repercussions for them all. Caterer presents an intriguing magical world that is unfortunately diminished by conventional plotting and dialogue. Anglielle's denizens are numerous and memorable, and detailed descriptions of the forest and castle enliven the prose, but the inorganic plot elements sometimes seem prescribed. For example, Everett telegraphs, carries out, and rehashes his decision to betray Holly in such an obvious fashion, it may engender eye rolling. Readers of Angie Sage's Magyk (HarperCollins, 2005) or Bruce Coville's Into the Land of the Unicorns (Scholastic, 1994) will want to follow Holly's adventures even if uninspired plotting prevents an intriguing idea from reaching its full potential.-Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Holly isn’t sure what to expect when she heads off for a summer in England after fifth grade. Her mother has moved the family, including Holly’s stay-at-home father and her slightly younger brother, Ben, to take a temporary position in Oxford, one that comes with a house and, as Holly quickly discovers, deep woods. After her arrival, she meets a local boy and a mysterious groundskeeper, who gives her a strange, ancient key. In her debut novel, Caterer quickly builds a fantasy that involves time travel and switching identities as Holly, Ben, and their new friend Everett enter a tree, using Holly’s key, and find themselves identified as enemy agents by a fantasy analog of thirteenth-century England. Magic creatures, realistic human emotions, and the children’s very different personalities are well knit into a rich drama that lasts the full summer. While the plot is neatly wrapped up by the satisfying conclusion, Caterer leaves room for further adventures in the magical world. Grades 4-7. --Francisca Goldsmith