Reviewed by Ron Freeman
I recently read a wonderful, creepy, children’s book. It is called The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson.
As a general rule, we tend to believe that technological advancements improve the quality of our life. In Arntson’s society of the future, he takes many of our seemingly positive technologies, extends them in a very logical way, and creates an eerie future.
We tend to feel that if every school had a computer for every child, learning would increase dramatically because every child would be engaged and programs could identify specific skills for a child to work on. In Arntson’s world, computers allow for more and more standardized testing, which creates more standardized learning, which results in a wealth of knowledge that gets left behind.
We tend to feel that GPS is a very positive development, because we aren’t trying to look at maps while driving and we never get lost. In Arntson’s world, GPS is so prevalent, and cars are so smart, that nobody can find anything without it.
As a society, we’re always trying to improve public safety, whether it be through seat belts, cushioned playgrounds, or elbow and knee pads and helmets. In Arntson’s world, kids grow weak and uncoordinated because they never develop the strength and body awareness that comes from taking risks as children.
In today’s world, we accept corporate names on sports stadiums, and commercials on television, radio, and the Internet, because it helps pay for services and entertainment. In Arntson’s world, advertising is far more invasive. It is pumped into cars, homes, and even infiltrates public service announcements.
Arntson’s vision is scary and believable, but The Wikkeling would read like an essay if there weren’t a compelling story to go with it. Fortunately there is.
Henrietta is a misfit – in danger of failing school and prone to debilitating headaches that she believes are caused by the dilapidated house in which she lives. She is friendless until she discovers two other students, Gary and Rose, who also suffer from these headaches. She enters her attic for the first time to nurse an injured cat, and she finds that she can see into the past through her attic windows. The three friends discover a strange, threatening creature called the Wikkeling who they must battle while solving mysteries of the past.
I would recommend this book to kids ages 11 and up who like dark visions of the future.
About the Author
Ron Freeman is the Children's Librarian at the Trails West Library. He is married and has two daughters who would like him better if he weren't so old, short, and bald. At least his dogs are fond of him.