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William Alexander

William AlexanderWilliam Alexander won the National Book Award for his debut novel, Goblin Secrets — praised by Kirkus Reviews as “gripping and tantalizing” in a starred review — and won the Earphones Award for his narration of the audiobook. He studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College and English at the University of Vermont and currently lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis. Ghoulish Song is his second novel. Visit him at and


Goblin Secrets

Goblin Secrets — (2012-2013) Ages 8 and up. Publisher: In the National Book Award–winning Goblin Secrets, a boy joins a theatrical troupe of goblins to find his missing brother. In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who has clockwork chicken legs and moves her house around—much like the fairy tale figure of Baba Yaga. Graba takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared. Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan—because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river. This accessible, atmospheric fantasy takes a gentle look at love, loss, and family while delivering a fast-paced adventure that is sure to satisfy.

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Goblin Secrets: Charming ideas and missed opportunities

Readers’ average rating:

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

My family and I were just quasi-playing a game called Booktastic the other night (quasi as in just reading questions from the cards rather than actually playing the game), when the question came up to name an award-winning book whose awarding you just didn’t get. I believe I chose an entire year of finalists one year for the National Book Award (All five. Every one.). Now though, I’d have to add this year’s winner for Young People:  William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets. Alexander’s debut novel isn’t by any stretch a bad book, but it is, in my mind, under-developed and unfocused and in the end, unsatisfying.

Goblin Secrets is set in Zombey, a beguiling creation of a city split into two parts:  upper class, clean Northside, with its straight streets laid out in a grid, and lower-class, cluttered and crowded Southside, f... Read More