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This novel was based on Coville's classic short story "My Little Brother Is a Monster," which he published in 1993. This novel takes the basic plot of that story, but expands it considerably, adding new characters, spending more time in the world of the monsters, and updating the setting from 1993 to the 2012.
Some of the changes work better than others. Many of the new characters are appealing, especially Lily, the other narrator. It was good to see more of the Land of Always October, and I enjoyed learning more about what motivates the villainous monsters.
What I liked less was Coville's expansion of the role of Jake's family. In the original story he was a normal kid with a divorced mom trying to make ends meet who is thrust into an extraordinary situation. In the novel his family has preexisting ties to Always October going back generations. I think this weakens the atmosphere a bit, one of the most appealing aspects of the original story was the idea of a gritty modern family thrust into a world of weird fantasy. Here they were already fantastic before Little Dumpling arrives on their doorstep.
Always October is a great book for kids. But it is a little scary. The age it would be good for I think is six years old and up. Bruce Coville is a great kids book writer.