In The Neddiad, Neddie Wentworthstein’s father decides to move his family to Los Angeles so they can eat at the Brown Derby. This is typical of the charming absurdities that fill Daniel Pinkwater’s books. Anyway, Neddie goes on an eccentric journey by train to the Hollywood of an earlier era: bellboy ghosts and retired cowboy showmen and swashbuckling movie stars and funky hotels and Navajo shamans and turtles. Turtles are very important.
It’s a picaresque with wonderful details, but what I like is the mystic adventure woven in.
Since it’s a chapter book, there’s a lot of recap, which can get annoying when you’re reading it in only a few sittings. Neddie meets many odd people with curious interests, and he learns some strange and some not so strange things. Some of it feels like random chunks of pedagogical material, but most of it is pretty neat, like the animals trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits. And the turtles.
Much of the story is about kid stuff–making friends, going to school–while the turtle quest bubbles under the surface. Frankly, once we can see the Final Battle coming, the book seems to take forever to get to the ending, ambling along with the reassurance that the subtitle will be fulfilled: How Neddie Took The Train, Went To Hollywood, And Saved Civilization. The way things work out sweeps Neddie up, somehow making sense even though no one quite understands what’s happening, not even Neddie, and that’s the coolest part of all.
Even the smallest turtle looms large.