It seems like every time I receive a children’s book for review, I have to chase it down and pry it from the hands of one of the wee ones. What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World by Henry Clark is just the latest example. The novel, aimed at tweens, follows three 12 year olds living in Sunnyside on the outskirts of Hellsboro, a ruined portion of the town of Cheshire.
Fiona, Freak, and River (the narrator) are the only three children left living in houses in Sunnyside. Years ago, an underground coal fire began burning around the Rodmore Chemical plant, laying waste to the surrounding area where the fire still burns. Most houses are abandoned, but Fiona’s family can’t sell her house, Freak’s dad is too drunk to care, and River’s aunt can’t afford to move either.
The three are “bus stop friends” where they talk while waiting for the bus and until the bus’s second stop, but Fiona then leaves the two boys in her attempt to become cool. When River arrives at the bus stop one day and discovers Freak sitting on an old plaid sofa, he joins him, as does Fiona when she arrives. Digging into the cushions, they find a variety of treasures from an odd double sided coin to a double six domino to a fish hook that stabs River to an unused green zucchini colored crayon.
That evening, Fiona looks up the zucchini crayon and discovers how incredibly rare it is. The agree to do an online auction of the crayon, splitting the proceeds three ways, assuming they’ll make a few hundred dollars. When Fiona rushes to the bus stop the next morning showing that the bidding is over $7,000, they have an attack of conscience, deciding the sofa must below to old Mr. Underhill, the recluse who lives in the mansion near where the sofa appeared.
The go to the gate to let him know about the crayon and the auction, and they are invited inside where they meet Alf, who now owns the Underhill mansion, Mr. Underhill having passed away three years prior. Alf invites them to come back – with all the items they found in his sofa – after school that day.
While waiting for Freak and Fiona after school, River falls asleep on the sofa and dreams about a land called Indorsia where the sofa is from. The sofa had grown from cubes and has powers, including being able to “tesser” or teleport. As the three enter Alf’s home, they begin to realize that River’s dream was reflective of reality.
The crayon turns out to be a plant to lure Edward Desin – infected with Compulsive Collecting Disorder – to distract him from his plot to enslave Cheshire and eventually all of Earth to build spacecraft to then colonize and take over the rest of the planets.
Desin, it turns out, owns the company that owns Rodmore Chemical along with many other companies. The cell phones are supplied by Disin Tel, as are the snacks from Agra Nation Foods. All of these are conspiring to control the minds of the people of Cheshire, and it’s working.
The three children are recruited by Alf to stop Desin, and the book is a charming adventure of how the three determine whom to trust and why and grow the relationship amongst the three of them. Mister Man adored the book – and I had to wrestle it from him in order to read it myself.
This is the first book by Henry Clark, and I can only hope it isn’t the last, as the characters in it were ones I’d like my own children to emulate and their adventure is a riot but innocent fun. In fact, I sort of hope that this book becomes a series and follows River, Freak, and Fiona in their next adventure.
The publisher has offered one of you a giveaway copy of What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World. Just leave a comment below if you’d like to win. We’ll announce the winner in our August 28 giveaway column. The giveaway is closed.
Written by Michelle who sometimes feels like electronics are a form of mind control. She’s resisting, but it’s hard. See how she uses her mind on her blog Honest & Truly! or follow along with her on Twitter where she is also @HonestAndTruly.