What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When River and his friends discover a rare zucchini-colored crayon in a discarded sofa, they are launched into a fight to save Earth.
River, Freak, and Fiona live in an environmental disaster zone: their town, Hellsboro, has been poisoned by an underground coal seam fire. Not only that, but their town seems to have gotten weirder since the fire started - there are weekly show-tune-singing flashmobs in the cafeteria that no one seems willing to admit to. (Even Fiona, who participates in them herself.) The key to the mysteries is not just between the sofa cushions, but also inside the old house near their bus stop.
River and his friends are bright and skeptical kids, which makes them fun to follow. They aren't easily fooled, having lived through the worst of human nature. The science fiction plot combines the silly with the serious: there is a villain with a compulsive disorder and extreme megalomania ("Compared to me, Alexander the Great was merely mediocre" - 299) as well as true loss and danger (Freak's father is abusive, and the others have similarly fractured family lives).
The text is liberally sprinkled with loving Lord of the Rings references, as well as allusions to other classic art, film, and literature. The humor is dry and made me laugh aloud, and I liked the three kids - they may not always want to be seen together in public, but they certainly have each others' backs. It's a smart and fast-paced story that I think will appeal to fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I'd also suggest Lynne Jonell's Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat.
On finding Jackson Pollock's childhood coloring book: "Remind me to show it to you. The man was completely incapable of coloring within the lines." - 132