Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 14 to 18
- Grade: 9 to 12
The ghosts of war reverberate across the generations in a riveting, time-shifting story within a story from acclaimed thriller writer Tim Wynne-Jones.
When Evan’s father dies suddenly, Evan finds a hand-bound yellow book on his desk—a book his dad had been reading when he passed away. The book is the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island in WWII. Why was his father reading it? What is in this account that Evan’s grandfather, whom Evan has never met before, fears so much that he will do anything to prevent its being seen? And what could this possibly mean for Evan? In a pulse-quickening mystery evoking the elusiveness of truth and the endurance of wars passed from father to son, this engrossing novel is a suspenseful, at times terrifying read from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones.
About the author
Tim Wynne-Jones is one of Canada's foremost writers for children. The author of over thirty-five books, he is a two-time winner of the Governor General's Award, as well as a two-time winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and of the Arthur Ellis Award. His short-story collections include Some of the Kinder Planets, Book of Changes and Lord of the Fries. He is also known for his Rex Zero series. Recently, he wrote the young-adult novels The Ruinous Sweep; Emperor of Any Place, which earned seven starred reviews; and Blink & Caution, which won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. Tim is also the recipient of the Edgar Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. In 2012, he was made an Officer to the Order of Canada. He lives in Perth, Ontario.
Excerpt: The Emperor of Any Place (by (author) Tim Wynne-Jones)
Evan stands at the door to his father’s study. Thereis a sign at eye level: THE DOCKYARD. It was a present he gave to his father ast Christmas,made of cork so that if the house sank, at least the sign would still float. Their little joke.
He raises his hand to knock— a habit he can begin to unlearn. So much of grief is unlearning. He opens the door, steps inside, and takes a shallow breath, afraid of what might belingering on the air. But there are only the old familiar smells:Royal Lime aftershave, glue, sawdust.
This is where he found him.
He thought his father had fallen asleep. The only sign thatanything was wrong was the new model ship lying on its side on the carpet. His father had finished it the evening before—fourteen days ago. Evan had picked up the ship; it wasn’t damaged. He found a space for it on the shelf with the other ships,a couple dozen of them. He placed it there to join his father’s bottled armada. “Not so grand as an armada,” his father had once said. “More like a flotilla.”
Clifford E. Griffin III, a modest man.
It was strange doing that, picking up the boat and placing itcarefully on the shelf, pretending his father was asleep behindhim. Only asleep. There was no blood, no sign of a struggle, just the boat in its bottleon its side on the floor. And his father pitched over his desk, his face strained, his eyelids and jaw tense,rigor mortis setting in. He even died modestly.
Hypertrophiccardiomyopathy. The muscle of his heart had been thickening. Evan had watched his father rub his chest afair bit, the look on his face more annoyance than pain. And he would get short of breath when he was gardening. That was about it.
And then that was it.
Fourteen days ago. No — fifteen. Now Evan moves into the room, heads over to the desk,the chair pushed back so hard against the wall by the paramedics that it left a dent in the plaster just under the window. The chair is still there up against the wall. The plants on the sill are dead. One more thing Evan has forgotten to do. There are dried leaves on the floor.
The ambulance arrived thirteen minutes after he called 911.The fire truck got there three minutes faster. Evan stood shivering at the open front door in his boxers and T-shirt, watching the cartoon-red ladder truck pull into the driveway, wondering whether he’d somehow called the wrong number. Huge men, dressed for putting out fires, piled out of the vehicle, sniffed the air, looked up into the early morning haze for smoke or flames— the kind of stuff they were good at. Then two of them set off at a run around the perimeter of the house— one this way, one that— while three of them entered, so large, they seemed to fill up the place and suck out all the air. Evan thought maybe he was suffocating.
One of them checked out the Dockyard. Another one found a blanket somewhere and wrapped Evan up in it, made him sit in the living room, trembling even though it was July. The third fireman brought him water in a glass from the kitchen.
“Is there someone we should call?”
Evan shook his head. His dad was retired now, so he wasn’ tgoing to be late for work. Oh! The fireman meant family:another parent or auntie,an older sibling— that kind of someone. But there really wasn’t anyone. Not one he could think of right then, that is— right at that precise moment. Just him and Dad.
Dual stories of strength and resilience illuminate the effects that war has on individuals and on father-son relationships, effects that stretch in unexpected ways across generations as Evan and Griff make their way toward a truce. An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he eliminates the hidden depths of personalities and families through a mesmerizing blend of realism and magic.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Readers will be swept up quickly in the tense relationship between Evan and Griff, as well as the unlikely friendship between enemy soldiers fighting for survival in a surreal landscape. Without spelling out the metaphoric significance of the story within the story, Wynne-Jones provides enough hints for readers to make connections and examine the lines between war and peace, as well as hate and love.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Wynne-Jones writes with a sure hand and a willingness to take readers into uncharted territory. The main characters in both time periods are complex and vividly portrayed, while the stories, both supernatural and realistic, quietly take note of nuances that standard narratives overlook. A riveting, remarkable novel by a reliably great Canadian writer.
—Booklist (starred review)
Offering a unique take on the World War II period, this intergenerational tale is an excellent addition to most YA collections.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
There’s a whole lot going on here: Evan’s and Griff’s shared heartbreak, exhibited in very different ways, and their own increasingly complicated relationship; the stark contrast between the mainly nondescript “Any Place” of Evan’s suburban Ontario and the horror of the desert island; and the unlikely friendship between enemy soldiers in the story-within-a-story. All these seemingly disparate parts come together in fascinating ways, resulting in an affecting and unforgettable read.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
English-Canadian author Tim Wynne-Jones (The Uninvited, Blink & Caution) crafts a truly spellbinding novel in which the mystical, desert-island, wartime chronicle is as riveting as the modern-day story... and the ways they begin to fuse together are breathtaking.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
The layers of intergenerational strife, savage warfare, lingering suspicion and gradual healing are quilted into a warming narrative that is both uncompromisingly tragic and holistically redemptive. Readers will carry this haunting story with them for a long time.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Literary master Tim Wynne-Jones has penned another outstanding book for adventurous readers, combining history and horror to grip the imagination.
...the historical aspect combined with the supernatural will draw readers of varying interests.
—School Library Connection
Canadian YA master Tim Wynne-Jones keeps two fires burning equally, and with seeming ease, in his signature taut style.
—The Globe and Mail