All The Kings Horses

Colin and Sarah's grandfather -- a runaway Irish boy whose extraordinary gifts have made him an Olympic horse trainer -- is the hero of their lives. In the summer, their widowed mother has always sent them to live with him, and they have spent the daytimes in the saddle and the evenings on Grandpa's doorstep, listening to his wondrous tales of the Otherworld and the Faer Folk. But Grandpa begins to forget -- only a little, at first, but gradually, so much that he is forced to retire and come live with the children and their mother in a run-down Victorian house at the edge of a dreary Massachusetts industrial town. Despite the children's best efforts, his memory becomes so bad that he can't remember his stories -- or where he is --or who they are.

On Halloween, Grandpa "escapes" from the house and wanders out into the fog. The children find him in a faerie ring that's hidden in a junk-filled cloverleaf of the unfinished connection between Highway 495 and the 125 Connector. With him are two little men Colin's size, but they're not kids -- they're the wrong shape, and their eyes glow dark and dangerous. Knowing that to speak to such creatures is fatal, the terrified children ignore them and persuade Grandpa to come home. But now they have -- or at least Colin has -- a hypothesis about what's wrong with Grandpa; he's a changeling.

The next day, when Grandpa escapes from their mother, the children rush to the Faerie Ring -- and there they meet Cathbad and Mongan, faeries who tell them they have broken the spell of centuries and thus can travel back and forth between their world and the Otherworld as many times as they need, so long as they have a mission; what's more, the Sidhe and all the lesser faeries are obliged to help them fulfill that mission. Seeing their opportunity, the children ask to be taken where their real Grandpa is, so they can bring him back. Cathbad is appalled, but he cannot escape The Rules -- and so, reluctantly, he agrees to take them to where their grandfather is along the path that he has followed.

And so the faeries magically bestow upon the children a series of visions that parallel Grandpa's diminishing mind: they encounter terrifying dreams, inexplicable disorientation, and eventually, the terrifying Grey Land -- for Grandpa is in that land, not in Faerie as they have supposed. Rescued only by the courage of the kingly Manannan and his Faerie stallion Enbarr, they temporarily give up their quest, but when Grandpa gets pneumonia and they realize that he may die, they try once more to find him.

The book is dedicated to the memory of three dear friends who died of Alzheimer's; all proceeds from its sales go the the Alzheimer's Association.

"A work of real literature." --John Thurner, novelist.

"[Stevenson] writes with the sensitivity of a poet." --Marni McGee, children's writer.

Review in Carousel: The Guide To Children's Books (pdf)