No Passengers Beyond This Point is quick, an easy read, and very creative—it’s fun and out of the ordinary.
Three siblings—India, Finn and Mouse (all named after foreign countries–Mouse is actually Switzerland)—find out that their house has gone into foreclosure and their mother, lacking any more options, and needing to stay in California to complete the year as a school teacher, is going to pack them on a plane and send them to their Uncle Red in Colorado.
Of course, no one is happy. Self-centered India is going to miss her friends. Finn is a worrier and he thinks about leaving his basketball team behind, but he also stresses out over how difficult all this must be for his mother. (The children’s father is dead.) Mouse is too young to fully grasp what’s happening, although she’s incredibly bright for a five-year-old. She relies on her imaginary friend, Bing, to get by.
I was expecting a book where the siblings would deal with being the new kids in town—maybe they’d be bullied at the new school, maybe they wouldn’t be accepted. Instead, the plane experiences turbulence and it lands, after only an hour, in a place called Falling Bird. The kids are picked up in a feather-lined taxi, driven by a twelve-year-old with a fake mustache. O-K! We are in an alternate universe.
The first thing that each of the siblings gets is a dream home of his or her own, complete with a better-than-real-life parent. But that only lasts a day. The dream houses blow apart and the kids are homeless again.
Knowing that Finn, India and Mouse are in an alternate world from which they must escape makes the reader question the purpose of all the things in their world that they must confront. After their perfect dream houses explode, they are on a clock—with a deadline to get out safely or be stuck forever. You’ll start clicking through the oddities—what are all the black birds about? The black box? The dimes in the shoe? The white cat? How about the white courtesy phones that keep popping up as temptation all over the place? Does Mouse’s imaginary friend, Bing, have a purpose?
There are many clues—and to be honest, not all of them fit into the completed puzzle at the end of the book. Still, for those that do fit, you’ll have an ‘ah-ha’ moment.
This is a book for everyone—read it out loud to a younger brother or sister. The sinister aspects of the weird world of Falling Bird are only creepy. There’s no graphic violence or scariness. And there’s a great message about brothers and sisters—one worth sharing!
Note: Gennifer Choldenko also wrote Al Capone Does My Shirts, a popular book that you may have read. If not, it’s unusual and a lot of fun, too. It discusses family, and even autism, at a time when that spectrum was unrecognized.