from The Chicago Sun-Times

‘Children’ delivers adventure, cultural commentary

Batman’s Joker has nothing on Amos Zozz.

The monstrous head of Castertown’s MegaMall is the evil genius behind, or in his case beneath, the sinister setting in Kit Reed’s new book for young readers.

The Night Children (Starscape, 240 pages, $17.95), which follows in the vein of Reed’s 2005 Alex Award-winner Thinner Than Thou, is a creepy page-turner delivering biting cultural commentary. This time the obsession plaguing America is shopping, and capitalism in Castertown has run amok.

Reed’s fantastical release could not have been timed better considering our dismal economy, but her MegaMall is no ordinary shopping center. The honeycombed behemoth covers 4 square miles, and by night is home to gangs of abandoned and runaway children.

One of these is spirited Jule Devereaux, who stays on the WhirlyFunRide a little too late one night. She becomes a prisoner of the Dingos. Jule is about to be offered as a sacrifice to the all powerful Zozz when the Castertown Crazies save her.

The Crazies, led by steadfast Tick Stiles, brace for war with the Dingos, but the children soon will learn that their squabbles are nothing compared to what Zozz has in store. They band together, but will it be enough?

Zozz knows feral packs infest his empire and plans to exterminate them sadistically. His designs reveal his tortured past, which has left him hideously disfigured and deranged.

Zozz’s grandson, Lance the Loner, who turned his back on the family fortune, is in position to help. From his safe haven beneath the MegaMall, Lance has learned quite a bit about what actually goes on there.

He knows about the river beneath the complex and its sinister use. And he knows how to alert the masses to what’s going on underneath it all.

Reed has concocted a wonderfully modern cartoon depicting how the rich treat the poor, how the poor go along with it to become rich, and what it takes to break the cycle.

Batman does not come to save the day, but Reed brings her story to a rousing finish that will keep young readers riveted.

Leeann Zouras

For the Sun-Times