Known for historical and realistic fiction, Newbery Honor author Gennifer Choldenko turns to fantasy in No Passengers Beyond This Point, a wonderfully imaginative adventure story. The novel features 14-year-old India, a typically insecure teenager who values her reputation over her single mother’s insight; six-year-old Mouse, “like Einstein on a sugar high,” who has an imaginary friend and constantly torments her older sister; and 12-year-old Finn, the traditional middle-child peacekeeper who incessantly worries about those around him. All still grieve the loss of their father, who died just before Mouse was born. Now they’re faced with losing their mother, too, when she announces that their house is being foreclosed on by the bank and the children must leave.
While their mother remains in California to finish out the school year, the three siblings fly to Fort Baker, near Denver, to live with their Uncle Red. Their flight takes an unusual detour, however, landing just outside Falling Bird. Picked up by Chuck, a child himself, disguised in a fake mustache and sideburns and driving a pink taxi with white feathers stuck to it, the trio immediately suspects something strange is afoot. Their apprehension gives way to delight when they arrive to a personalized welcome to the city and they are each given a dream house, complete with a mother or father who knows and meets all of their wishes. When India, Finn and Mouse realize that this city of dreams is just an illusion, it may be too late to travel back to the airport and find home.
No Passengers Beyond This Point is reminiscent of such classics as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As the children race a clock counting down time and never know who to trust, they begin to understand their mother and her hard decisions, to act instead of worry and to work together as a family. When readers reach the surprise ending, they’ll immediately want to reread this fascinating story to look for clues missed along the way.