One of the highest accolades a student can bestow on a book is to ask his or her teacher to read it to the class. When I overheard a student at my school telling her teacher that she must read No Passengers beyond this point to her Grade 5 class I just knew I had to grab this book for myself.
The first thing I enjoyed about this book is the way each chapter is presented as from the point of view of each of the three children. You might remember I talked about this in I put a spell on you. Another series that does this is the Blossom books by Besty Byars. In No Passengers beyond this point Gennifer Choldenko gives each child an authentic voice which helps the reader to quickly identify their individual strengths and weaknesses. There is India the selfish teenager, Finn the family worrier and the delightful six year old Mouse.
I have had a strange reaction to this book. I found the ending a little disappointing but at the same time I need to say I was thoroughly engrossed in the first 22 chapters. I also had some problems with the way the author seemed to want her characters to grown and change and learn about themselves or even learn some big life lessons but in the end I think this only really happened for the older girl India. On the upside I loved little Mouse. She is quirky and highly intelligent and all the way through I wanted only the best for Mouse. The scene when Mouse arrives at the airport and sets off the security system with her exploding volcano is one of my favourite parts of this book.
Finn, India and Mouse are forced out of their home when their mother defaults on the mortgage. Mrs Tompkins or Mom cannot go with the children. She is sending them across the country to their Uncle Red with the plan that she will join them when the school term ends. Mom is a teacher and she must complete her contract and then she will need to obtain accreditation to teach Colorado.
The plane hits terrible turbulence and on landing the children find themselves in a disconnected place filled with children masquerading as adults, loudspeakers and strange warnings about time.
All three children are taken into the town of Falling bird. They are welcomed like returning heroes and on arrival they are each taken to the house of their dreams. India's for example is filled with all those wonderful clothes teenagers love. Finn finds a dad who loves to shoot hoops and for Mouse "my home is yellow with white trim, a porch swing, pots with flowers, and clouds of butterflies and hummingbirds and fireflies everywhere... in the doorway is a lady with red curly hair like mine. She has a science book in one hand, a plate of peanut-butter-chocolate chip cookies in the other. I can smell them."
I have just read the comments of one reviewer who, like me thought the cover was a jar. A closer look reveals it is an aeroplane window. I will be very interested to hear what the Grade 5 class think about this surreal, fantasy adventure. You can hear the author here. You might also want to read a good review which gives a little more of the plot. Finally here is a splendid review by my 'friend' Mr K. I have only just discovered that he totally enjoyed this intriguing book.