Title: Caroline & Mordecai the Gand | Author: Jeff Gunhus | Publisher: Seven Guns Press | Genre: Middle Grade (Ages 8-12) | Publication Date: March 31, 2021
“Caroline’s story is profoundly sad, and yet hopeful, magical, and yet rooted in reality. There is magic, mystery, and daring adventure.” – BooksCoffee
This novella was written by USA Today bestselling author Jeff Gunhus after he received a devastating diagnosis of state 3 cancer. The story is a message to his five children on how to deal with grief and a plea for them to grasp onto joy and love even in the darkest of times.
Caroline loses her spark. It takes a great adventure for her to find it again.
Caroline loses her father in a car accident for which she feels responsible. Consumed by grief, she has a difficult time readjusting to a world that has changed so dramatically for her. On the anniversary of her father’s death, a strange window opens in the middle of the small lake behind her house. She climbs up an old oak to peer inside, but falls out of the tree and discovers that the window also serves as a door into a different world.
Enter Mordecai the Gand, a mysterious traveler who befriends Caroline and promises to help her find a way back home since the window she fell through has disappeared. The two set out on a series of adventures that include visiting a tree village populated by a tribe known for eating travelers, running into a witch under a spell of her own making, hiding in a cave with a dragon encased in a wall of ice (prone to melting by campfire), all the while being pursued by a mysterious entity call the Creach which promises to devour Caroline and trap her in an eternity of despair.
As they navigate these adventures and this new world, Caroline slowly discovers that she is meant to help each of the characters she meets. As she battles internally whether to stay or return home to the sadness and grief waiting for her there, she must regain perspective and open her heart to the act of caring and to the joy of love itself. In the end, she must demonstrate great courage, loyalty, and caring as the plot unfolds, becoming the active hero of her own story.
My Thoughts: Somehow modern and classic all at once, Caroline & Mordecai the Gand is a haunting, atmospheric fantasy novella of grief, adventure and peace. This highly-imaginative story moves between the contemporary world of middle school, parents and bullies and a mysterious land full of musical nomads, grieving witches and hungry predators.
Caroline is a clever, curious and courageous girl who is struggling to deal with the death of her father. Mordecai the Gand is a mysterious nomad that guides Caroline through the mystical world she finds herself in. During her journey, Caroline chooses to help each character that she meets in her own way and in doing so learns that her grief is keeping her from what matters most. This gorgeously written, heart-wrenching story is a compelling read that is hard to put down and impossible to predict. This is a wonderful book to help children think about grief and how we remember those we’ve lost.
Meet the Author:
Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade fantasy series, The Jack Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.
Jeff wrote Caroline & Mordecai the Gand after receiving a devastating diagnosis of stage 3 cancer. The novella was meant as a private story for his five children on how to face grief by holding onto joy and love. He leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of Old Fox Books in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.
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