Sunday, July 12, 2015

The name at the end of the ladder by Elena De Roo

I always enjoy books set in the future involving draconian controls imposed by a corrupt government. The name at the end of the ladder only hints at this but I did enjoy the premise that names are dangerous and so children have to wait until they turn twelve when they can 'choose' a name.  I say 'choose' because it seems there really is no choice.  The authorities or Investigators have created a safe name list and even though they give lip service to the idea of matching the name with the child this clearly is not really their practice.

"Here at the Name Bank we pride ourselves on our efficiency.  We'll have a name chosen for you in no time at all... He sounded friendly enough but September's gut told her otherwise. The words 'chosen for you' and 'assigned' didn't sound promising."

Until the age of twelve children are named by the month of their birth and so as this story opens September has just turned twelve and so she has an appointment with The Name Bank.  This appointment does not go well but as she is leaving, September, opens a lolly wrapper and reveals the words :

Play the game to choose your name!
Collect your prize from basement level 4, room 449."

September does indeed have to play the game. She plays the game using herself as a counter.  It is a game like snakes and ladders and after each turn the player is presented with a tuning fork and a new name.  Each of these names has severe consequences for September and then she realizes to reach the final square, where the perfect name awaits her,  the player must throw the exact number.  She hears the voices of other children and realizes they are trapped in the game.  Time is running out.  She has some help from a boy called August who is also playing this game but so much depends on that final roll of the dice.  Her father would be a brilliant ally after all he works for the Council of Knowledge but she is afraid to tell him the truth.

Here is a set of teaching notes from the publisher.  Here is the author web site.  You might also enjoy The Museum of Thieves, Finding Serendipity, Among the Hidden or Forbidden Memories.

If you enjoy fast paced action, board games, solving puzzles, the triumph of good over evil and strong-minded characters like September you will enjoy The Name at the end of the Ladder.

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