<b>A boy's quest springs eternal</b>Could Endymion Spring be a <i>Da Vinci Code</i> for kids? With a touch of Harry Potter thrown in? The young adult/middle school thriller certainly fits the bill. Like the adult bestseller, this novel is built on threads of historical fact and has a mystery at its heart. Young Blake is a boy ready to be bored. He and his little sister, Duck, are stuck hanging around hallowed halls while his mom is a visiting scholar at Oxford University. One day Blake is browsing through the stacks of old, boring books when one book somehow seems to bite him. When he examines the brown leather volume, he sees the name Endymion Spring on the cover, but inside, the pages appear to be blank. Soon a poem appears, and Blake eventually realizes he is on a quest, and the poem is his first clue.
Blake soon encounters a homeless man who provides more clues, and one of his mother's old professors starts to help out, too. However, Blake is also warned that others with evil intentions are on this mission and it is difficult for him to know whom he can trust. First-time author Matthew Skelton has a doctorate in English Literature from Oxford, and his novel is full of authentic details. He bases his mystery on the fact that a man named Johann Fust was Johann Guttenberg's financial backer when he invented movable type. A rumor arose that Fust was actually the original Faust, a German magician who made a deal with the devil to obtain knowledge. Skelton brings the past to life by weaving in short chapters set in Germany in 1452, as narrated by Guttenberg's apprentice, Endymion Spring. The mystery and mood in these chapters sets the tone for the book's core drama, and provides a rich historical backdrop for Blake and his modern-day experiences. This may all sound rather complicated and esoteric for kids, but Skelton weaves together a fast-paced, easy-to-read tale. The book is heavy on action and mystery, and the history is blended in lightly, as needed. (Warner Brothers has already bought movie rights.)Much is resolved during Blake's many seat-of the-pants adventures, BUT, of course, I won't reveal the details. The ending is a definite setup for a sequel, so you're likely to hear more of this magical tale. <i>Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.</i>