Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.
Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.
They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.
On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.
And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.”
Over the Woodward Wall is a magical and enchanting Novella that instantly leaves you wanting more. Avery and Zib live on an ordinary street, in an ordinary town but one day something improbable happens. On their walks to school both children are forced to veer from their usual routes and are instead lead to a road that ends in a brick wall. Avery and Zib know the wall hasn’t always been here, they have been down this road before, but they also know the only way through it is over. Only what’s over the wall isn’t what they expect it to be, instead of the rest of the street, more houses, they find themselves in a wood unlike any wood they have ever seen. They soon find out this place is called the Up and Under filled with magical beings and ones not so different from their own world. They are told to walk the Improbable Road to the Impossible City where they will find the Queen of cups who can send them home. But like any journey, nothing is as easy as it seems. There are forces at work in the Up and Under, forces that wouldn’t mind having Avery or Zib as their own. They will have to learn who they can trust and who is working against them if they are ever to make it out in one piece.
Avery and Zib are two characters who couldn’t be more different. Two completely different sides of the alphabet. Avery, a child constantly on the cusp of adulthood with his starched clothes and shiny shoes and Zib who fears she will never grow into her real name, content to be dirty and stay a child as long as possible. Their differences come in useful in this strange land Avery being the calm and calculated, and Zib being trusting and willing to fight for those she loves. They are both brilliantly resilient, in the way only children can be, accepting of their surroundings instead of trying to fight it, willing to go on the adventure set before them.
It’s incredibly hard to narrow this book down to a specific age group. Would it pass as MG? Absolutely, and I would not hesitate in buying this book for children in my family. But as an adult, this book hit me in a different way. It took me back to a time when I would have been that accepting of something strange, when climbing a wall and finding a different world on the other side didn’t seem impossible, when going on a grand adventure was all I wanted in life. It also offers a lot of social commentary that, whilst it would go over the child’s head, is something that an adult reader can’t help but pick up on.
The Up and Under is a brilliantly rendered magical world that I would have loved to explore as a child. You will see echoes of some of the magical lands we all know and love: Wonderland, Narnia, Oz. But Barker makes the Up and Under her own, with unique characters that jump off the page and a vivid and quirky landscape. I defy you not to get swept away on Avery and Zib’s journey.
Would I have picked this up if I had seen it marketed as MG? Probably not, but I would have kicked myself for missing out on this magical read. At only over 200 pages you will fly though it, and I am insanely glad that the author left it open enough for us to return.