Hugo and the Bird: The Toothfairy
by Jeff Mills

"As the figure slowly ambled over to the boxes the screaming intensified to the point that the whole of the cave seemed to resonate with the sound."

Hugo’s life used to be relatively normal. Granted, it has taken some time to settle in now that his family has moved from a bustling city to a home overlooking the sea in Devon, England, and he still has to put up with an annoying older sister and deal with his dentist father’s obsession with a proper diet to promote good dental health. But in general he likes his new surroundings, even if the only real excitement is in living in a house that many of the locals think is haunted. Then the Bird arrives, and suddenly Hugo finds himself being catapulted into a dangerous quest to save the Toothfairy—complete with gnomes, mutated creatures, and a witch bent on revenge.

In this magical tale the author has compiled vignettes he once spun for his children on long car rides and a rainy spell in 2014 into a short novel. This approach to writing is not unique of course. Two other English novelists, A.A. Milne and J.R.R. Tolkien, used their literary creations, Winnie the Pooh and Bilbo Baggins, respectively, to entertain their children before turning their adventures into bestsellers. However, Mills takes his work one step further by incorporating an event of regional history from the 1600s, when three women were hanged on suspicion of witchcraft into his plot. The resulting novel is a merger of local lore and fantasy.

Mills combines humor, suspense, solid writing, and believable characters into a well-paced book. Although some of the violence may be a bit on the graphic side for younger readers, his novel should be suitable for most middle-grade fans of fantasy fiction.

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