Summary: An ordinary girl, Candy Quackenbush, suddenly finds herself gone from her boring hometown of Chickentown, Minnesota and thrust into the magical world of the Abarat. The Abarat is a series of islands, each of which contains an hour of the day--all except the mysterious twenty-fifth hour island. Candy quickly finds herself thrust into danger as she seeks to escape the dark Christopher Carrion and the greedy Rojo Pixler while meeting friends along the way.
Musings: One of the English teachers in my department proposed this as a potential summer reading book for our incoming 9th graders, so I picked it up at the library. Although only about 300 pages, the book is immensely heavy because it is printed on thick, glossy paper to best show off Barker's colorful illustrations that accompany the book. I found the weight cumbersome when reading, but it was worth it to see the fantastic illustrations that add to the story and do not give the book a feeling of childishness, which I had feared.
After complaining in previous posts about the women characters, I was absolutely in love with the plucky (no pun intended) heroine Candy. Candy has had a rough upbringing, but she is confident, resourceful, and self-assured of her own decisions. She is not plagued by self-doubt, and although she cares for other characters, she remains her own independent spirit.
Barker has created a world full of crazy places, unexpected magic, and creatures of multitudes of undefined species. I liked the creativity and unique places, but the Abarat did seem to lack a cohesive whole that makes a fantasy society seem real. One of the things I best liked about The Golden Compass, for example, was the world Pullman created; there were rules the world followed and I wanted to be a part of it. Barker's world seems governed solely by whatever strange things Barker can think up.
Overall, though, a fun read.