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The Silver Door

by Terry Griggs

Only a week has passed since the conclusion of Olivier’s gloriously exciting (and scary) adventures in Terry Griggs’s comic children’s fantasy novel Cat’s Eye Corner when the sequel, The Silver Door, opens. Olivier is spending his summer vacation with his grandparents at Cat’s Eye Corner, a shape-shifting funhouse of a mansion.
For company (and comic relief) Olivier turns to his pen pal, who is, quite literally, a talking fountain pen named Murray Sheaffer. Battling writer’s block as he attempts to pen his magnum opus, Murray ends up creatively plagiarizing a series of famous fictional first lines, only to pitch them until his page resembles an “action painting,” as Griggs describes it. While Griggs’s clever, nimble flexing of her linguistic muscles results in an abundance of delectable wordplay, it comes across as self-indulgent and sails way over the heads of her readers, few of whom will understand Jackson Pollock-style action painting or get the joke about the derogatory Yiddish words (such as Schnorrer and Schmuck) that she uses for some characters’ surnames.

Olivier’s misadventure begins when an ink monkey escapes from the pages of the encyclopedia he’s reading, and steals Murray. With his old friend Linnet and a new friend, a ghostly boy named Peely Wally who insists he’s real (“an illusion with a delusion,” quips that splendid wiseacre Murray), Olivier is hot in pursuit. Their chase takes them through the silver door leading into the dystopian empire of ice cream, where children are either slaves or served up for dinner, and adults are preserved for perpetuity. However adroit the jabs of satire, they’re more scenic than sustained.

Though Griggs provides readers with an amusing whirligig of a ride in her affectionate, inventive homage to adventure fantasy, this confection of a story offers readers a sugar high with little staying power.