Goblin Secrets by William Alexander has been named as a National Book Award Winner, seeing this award gave me high hopes for reading this book, sadly those hopes were quickly crushed. I was hoping for something that followed the lines of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and was misled by the word “goblin.” This might be a good read for younger readers for the enjoyment of adventure. It is also written in mostly simple sentences with no real structure.
The book follows a boy named Rownie looking for his brother Rowan. It takes place in a city called Zombay that is divided into two parts South side and North side. The boys were orphaned and a witch picked them up as slaves, the witch has a way of controlling the children and using them as “masks.” (This piece of masks is still confusing but it is an important aspect to understand the book.) There are also goblins that are part of a touring acting group. The Goblins take in Rownie when he escapes from the witch. Rownie is the only one that could not be controlled by the witch and this threatened her ability and authority over the children. Later you find out that the brother Rowan has been taken by the Mayor in the North and turned into a puppet with no heart.
I was confused on a few aspects of this book, there was an essence of magic but none of it is explained, there was also the changed and unchanged that were somewhat unclear. The piece about the “masks” and how they control people was never fully conveyed.
One of the big themes that this story contains is segregation and rejection between the goblins and the humans. The humans believed that if you talked to the goblins or associated with them that you would become a goblin.
This book could be used for inferring because there are many things that are not fully explained but implied. I personally would not use this book in my classroom because it is very confusing and hard to follow but I would put it in my classroom library for free choice reading.