Just think: To receive all that you desire, fill one balloon with your breath. This haunting idea is the basis of the mysterious story Juniper Berry: A Tale of Terror and Temptation by M.P. Kozlowsky. You might think at first that 11-year-old Juniper Berry lives a perfect life: she lives in a gorgeous mansion, has rich, beautiful movie-star parents, and everything she could possibly want… everything, that is, except a real loving family. Before Juniper’s parents were famous, they doted on her –she was the best thing in their lives. She dreamed of being a writer and she wrote plays that her parents spent hours acting out for her. But lately her parents have been distant, cold, and even cruel. Though on the outside they look the same, something is changing under the surface. Juniper spends hours in her big mansion using telescopes, magnifying glasses, and all sorts of tools that help her bring the world that seems so far away, right up close to her. She values truth and what lies beneath the surface of things more than anything. When she finally makes a friend in the weak, but gentle, boy named Giles, who lives down the road, they find they share a common bond. Giles’s parents have also been acting strange and cruel. Juniper and Giles are determined to find out why. On a cold and rainy night, Juniper follows her parents as they sneak out of the house and into the woods. What she discovers is a terrifying underworld ruled over by a strange man/creature called Skeksyl. He offers you anything you desire in the world, all bound in a balloon. All you have to do is exchange a balloon filled with your breath and for a balloon filled with Skeksyl’s breath. Once you inhale Skeksyl’s balloon, all the secrets of the world are yours. Juniper and Giles want to save their parents, but they, too, get tempted by this strange man/creature. It seems like such a small price to pay—a balloon of air –for everything you want. In this case Giles wants to be strong and Juniper wants to be loved. What they don’t realize is that piece by piece they are selling their souls for their wildest desires.
Can Juniper see the truth through this temptation? Can she hold strong and save not only her parents and Giles, but the many others who have also wandered down to that dark underworld? This is a haunting tale much like a modern folktale. Right from the start the story of Juniper grabbed me and pulled me into her world, a world where nothing is as it seems. I found the story thoughtful, exciting and very creepy. For a small hint of the kind of creepiness I mean, read the description of Skeksyl: “The man, if he could be called such a thing, stepped closer, slinking his way toward the children, his face still hidden but for a smile that glowed like moonlight. It was all teeth, long, yellowed teeth that stretched his purplish lips wide across his face-a twisted triangle of sneering terror. “I am so glad you came”, he nearly squealed.” You may think you would give up anything to get your greatest desire, but remember, be careful what you wish for! Review by Lizzy Healty