Ppeekk (pronounced “Peekie”) Rose Berry is a thirteen-year-old eighth grade girl who has just moved with her dad, a vacuum cleaner salesman, and mom, who is a pastry caterer, from Indiana to Delray Beach, FL. Because she played peek-a-boo with her parents when she was young, they nicknamed her Peeker, and when she got older she changed the spelling to make it unique. Since her parents don’t seem to have much time for her, she begins walking to school, although her dad does drive his old Yugo behind her till she crosses the drawbridge from the barrier island to make sure that she is safe. One day, when some workers are pouring concrete for a new sidewalk, an Old man looking like the grandfather of the Lucky Charms character blows a smoke ring toward her. When the workers drive off, she picks up a stick and draws a “Good Luck Circle” in the soft concrete. As she walks on, she picks up a dead-looking fish that talks to her and tells her that he is Frederick the Ninth, King of High Voltage, a magical underwater kingdom in the Intracoastal Waterway channel beneath the rickety old bridge. She calls him “Dead Fred.”
Ppeekk learns that a prehistoric monster named Megalodon has returned to life, dethroned Dead Fred, and is trying to take over High Voltage. However, Dead Fred has a plan to save his kingdom which involves the very shy Ppeekk, who seeks help from the two neighbor children, Quatro and Mini Romey, and six of their other friends from school. In High Voltage, they find that manatees talk, clownfish encourage children to throw their lunch boxes off the bridge, and flying fish carry the lunch boxes to special nearby rocks. But when a hurricane comes, will Ppeekk’s plan to destroy Megalodon and save High Voltage work?
Author Frank McKinney conceived the idea for this children’s fantasy novel while walking his daughter Laura (the inspiration for Ppeekk) and her friends to school, over the drawbridge on the Intracoastal Waterway in Delray Beach, FL every day of her school life – so far that’s over 1,200 walks as she is now in 6th grade!
High Voltage has been likened to both Oz and Narnia. The book is well written and very exciting to read. Parents may want to know that there are a few euphemisms, an instance of tobacco use by the old man, and some references to life on earth 50,000,000 years ago. On one occasion, Mini Romey is said to be wearing short shorts and a halter top. Also, there is a time when “Ppeekk felt funny telling a lie, but it was for a most important cause.” As to age range, the scene where Megalodon’s remoras turn into a voodoo priestess, an albino demon, and a blood-spitting monster might be a bit intense for children who are younger or a little sensitive. However, there are beneficial lessons portrayed about believing in oneself, gaining courage, friendship, and parent-child relationships, especially when Edward Berry goes out into the hurricane looking for his daughter. In addition, proceeds from book sales go to benefit Frank McKinney’s Caring House Project Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides a self-sustaining existence for the most desperately poor and homeless families in Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Africa, Indonesia, and the United States with homes, medical clinics, orphanages, schools, churches, clean water, and renewable agricultural assets such as livestock and crops. If you are interested in a breath-taking journey into a magical fantasy world, you should enjoy Dead Fred, Flying Lunch Boxes, and the Good Luck Circle.
Acknowledgements to the publisher for providing Wayne with a copy of the book for this review.
Related website: http://frank-mckinney.com/Dead-Fred.aspx