of Useless Things
This middle grades novel delights with elements of magic and mystery nestled naturally into the everyday life of a small, dusty town. The Encyclopӕdia of Useless Things is available for representation.
Thirty-five years after shepherd Esequiel Cobos hears the ghostly voices of Los Descarriados while tending his flock in a mountain meadow, a girl most everyone mistakes for ordinary learns the truth about those wayward spirits that gave Esequiel such a fright. VERONICA CURTISS is eleven years old and wasting away in little ol’ Little Pine, Texas, population five hundred and thirty-seven, not including goats, chickens, and horses, and oh yeah, a pair of jewelry-stealing talking ravens. Fortunately, she has her best friends RITA and JOHANNA. Unfortunately, Rita’s little brother, RAMÓN, disappears one day. The local sheriff doesn’t take it seriously—he has a string of robberies to solve. And Rita’s undocumented status means her family can’t seek outside help. It’s up to the girls to solve the mystery.
"A layered and emotionally ambitious fantasy."
So the search begins. The ravens haven’t seen Ramón and suggest Veronica learn to use her dad’s old flying suit and find the boy herself. The flying suit is news to her. Her parents died when she was three, and her grandmother never talks about them. Yet as she unearths the contraption, she also finds clues to her father’s genius and her mother’s heart. With the clock ticking, Veronica stares down her fear to make her first flight. Around every corner, the evidence is adding up to a frightening reality: Los Descarriados are real, and they have the boy.
Veronica turns to the one person who knows everybody in their town: ALKALI, the postman. Indeed, he does have some ideas. And from his years researching The Encyclopӕdia of Useless Things, he rejects Veronica’s claim about the uselessness of eleven-year-old girls. Instead, he teaches her to transform her fear into courage.
Then Veronica crashes during a training flight. Although no bones are broken, she’s shaken up. Mistakes are useful, Alkali insists. Yet so much could go wrong. That night, Veronica dreams of flying with the ravens. Again she’s heading for a crash, but this time she summons every ounce of strength and masters her craft. She awakens, knowing she is ready to fly.
"This is a seriously good book filled with magic, myth and a gifted child’s discovery
of her identity and talents...Enck’s tale is beautifully told, and her characters are
multifaceted and seem fairly ready to leap off the page as you read."
Reader's Favorite Review
Using Veronica’s power of flight, the girls stage a nighttime rescue to the ghosts’ mountain hideout—only Ramón doesn’t want to leave! The ghosts are his friends. As they all sit down together around the campfire, the gentlemanly ghosts explain that their spirits can’t fly or float like normal ghosts. They stay around Little Pine because there’s a portal to the next world nearby. If only they could float up to it. They eye Veronica’s flying machine.
Veronica flies the ghosts south to the portal, forging a bond with these lost, misunderstood souls. When day breaks, Veronica faces down the sheriff, who turns out to be the son of Esequiel Cobos. As the story of Ramón’s rescue spreads, a friend of Esequiel’s—a fellow shepherd—comes forward to tell their story. As the myth of Los Descarriados is unraveled and rewoven into the fabric of Little Pine, Veronica claims her inheritance of flight, and she and her friends come to learn that eleven-year-old girls are anything but useless.
"Younger readers may need some help understanding the finale, and older ones,
if they aren't too teary-eyed, should oblige."
Available NOW as an Audiobook!
Beginning Friday, April 3, 2020, The Encyclopӕdia of Useless Things will be serialized in a 19-part audiobook, with reading by the author and music and engineering by Rich Huarte. Find new links here every Monday and Friday to follow the adventures of Veronica and her friends.
Photo by Lesley Brown Villarreal.