Goblin Secrets

Goblin Secrets

Book - 2012
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In the National Book Award-winning Goblin Secrets , a boy joins a theatrical troupe of goblins to find his missing brother.

In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who has clockwork chicken legs and moves her house around--much like the fairy tale figure of Baba Yaga. Graba takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie's only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared.

Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan--because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river.

This accessible, atmospheric fantasy takes a gentle look at love, loss, and family while delivering a fast-paced adventure that is sure to satisfy.
Publisher: New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012.
ISBN: 9781442427266
Branch Call Number: J ALE


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JCLChrisK Apr 30, 2013

This was: good, but.

I really liked the world building and original setting with a lot of under-the-surface, unstated-but-implied history and culture and legends, but I felt like we barely scratched the surface of the potential.

I really liked the hints of atmosphere and Dickensian street urchin life, but wanted much more so that I really felt embraced by it instead of merely dipping my toes in it.

I thought the characters were interesting with decent personalities, motivations, and growth, but didn't feel like I was ever really caught up in their experiences or feeling their emotions.

I thought the story built to a decent climax, but halfway through I wouldn't have thought that was the defining conflict of the plot and the whole thing left me wanting much more.

I wanted to be delighted by all the insight provided by the theme of masks and the power each of us has to determine reality, but felt we just got a glimpse at the idea.

I felt like this was a small appetizer of a story, when what I wanted was a full meal. It left me wanting.

Nov 28, 2012

National Book Award for Young People's Literature


It’s not the first story I’ve read about a boy joining a troupe of traveling performers. And it’s not the first middle grade Steampunk adventure I’ve come across. Yet there’s something definitely one-of-a-kind going on in this book. An originality that you only find once in a pure blue moon. And that’s worth reading, you betcha.

BPLNextBestKids Aug 18, 2012

In the city of Zombay acting and masks are forbidden since no one is allowed to pretend to be someone else. Rownie lives with Graba, a witch, who takes in children who have been abandoned and she controls them. Goblins, who are not human, travel from place to place and are allowed to perform. Rownie’s older brother had studied mask making with the goblins and has disappeared. Graba, Rownie, and the goblins are all searching for him. This is a strange book where some characters have eyes and/or limbs made of gears and other artificial parts and where robots are propelled by coal made from the hearts of people and animals. Read and prepare to believe in the magic of theatre and masks. Reviewed by BPL volunteer EE.


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JCLChrisK Apr 30, 2013

He put on the mask and shifted his stance to tower above them all, even though he wasn't very tall.

"I am a giant," he said in a giant's voice, and it was true because he said that it was true.

Rownie wanted to try it. He wanted to declare himself a giant.


“Treat well your younger selves / Or they’ll rise up inside you, / And your heart will be overrun.”

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ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 9 and 12


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Rownie’s life hasn’t been worth much since the disappearance of his older brother Rowan. Living with “grandmother”, an old witch named Graba who holds a Fagan-like power over the orphans in her sway, Rownie runs various errands until one day he finds that goblins have come to his city of Zombay. They are conducting theatrical performances, an act forbidden to humans, so it’s as much a surprise to Rownie as to anyone when he joins their little troupe. Rownie is also still determined to track Rowan down, but that may mean using extraordinary means to escape from Graba’s all-knowing, all-seeing ways.


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