Monday, August 22, 2016

#BlogTour stop: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom by David Neilsen with review @RandomHouseKids

Good day everyone and welcome to our blog. We hope your Monday is going well. Our week is off to a splendid start with two tours and here is our second post as part of the Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom blog tour. This delightful middle grade book by David Neilsen is fun and very entertaining, with just the right amount of creeps. Our review is below. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week. As usual, keep reading!

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom by David Neilsen
Middle Grade fantasy
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover and eBook
Published: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (Random House)

When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids’ hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor’s spell.

Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery. 


There's always been one reliable fact for the kids living on or near Hardscrabble Street: the abandoned house which sits forlornly on that road. The house for which many have ventured inside again and again--against their parent's wishes. When words gets around that the house has been sold, instead of being happy to say goodbye to what should be considered a neighborhood eyesore, the residents lament. When a trio of friends-Jerry, his older sister Nancy and her pal Gail-meet the new owner, an odd-looking old man with a purple top hat and black pants, they figure something is off about him. Is there?

Sorry, I can't give spoilers but I will say that I knew this middle grade novel would be a fun read from its opening chapter with offbeat character names and people who are upset to lose an abandoned house to a taxpaying citizen. The trio of friends are filled with snark and humorous one-liners. The insults the girls easily hurl had me laughing and Jerry is immediately likable. The author captures the essence of tweens and what they go through as they transition from elementary school in preparation for high school. The awkwardness, the change in the way they see members of the opposite sex, and the way adults still regard them as "children" meaning not taken seriously. When the friends notice something is not quite right about Dr. Fell (he talks weird too), no one listens.

Why? They're too busy enjoying the playground he erects on his front yard. That huge slide is not an eyesore? A nuisance? Nope. Not to the residents of Hardscrabble Road. They're having too much fun but the reader, along with Nancy, Gail and Jerry, are determined to prove that their suspicions about the mysterious doctor are true. When kids begin getting injured and then healing quickly, the trio sets out to find the answers. 

Will Terry's illustrations help create the proper creepy mood and I wished to see more of them. Congratulations to David Neilsen on his debut novel. The author does a splendid job of pairing together just the right amount of macabre sensibilities together with humorous and quirky descriptions and spot-on dialogue. The clever twists will keep readers guessing while they keep turning the pages. The quick pace and tension also helps readers stay invested while being entertained. Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom has all the chills of a Goosebumps story, a convincing mystery, along with solid storytelling and likable characters. My son (12) and I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.

Cover comment: Get a kick out of Dr. Fell's purple top hat and crooked long nose. Check out the zany  playground.
Book source: Random House Children's Books 

“Deliciously dark, funny, and foreboding, Neilsen’s first novel delivers with broad appeal.” —Booklist

“Recommended for school libraries that need to breathe life into their traditional mystery collections.” —School Library Journal

“Such deliciously creepy fun! I fell in love with Dr. Fell! So will urchins and whippersnappers everywhere.” —Chris Grabenstein, author of the New York Times bestsellers Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and The Island of Dr. Libris

About the author

David Neilsen is a classically trained actor/storyteller, a journalist, and a theater/improvisation teacher for children and adults. During the Halloween season, David can be found telling spooky tales to audiences of all ages, or performing one of his one-man shows based on the stories of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. David lives in New York with his family. Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is his first novel. Visit him at

Blog Tour
We hope you’re enjoying the blog tour for David Neilsen’s Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom! In case you missed yesterday’s post, head over to Word Spelunking to check it out. The tour continues tomorrow on The Book Wars.

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