What Came from the Stars
by Schmidt, Gary D.

In a desperate attempt for survival, a peaceful civilization on a faraway planet besieged by a dark lord sends its most precious gift across the cosmos into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

On Tommy's twelfth birthday a beautiful silver-and-green chain mysteriously appears in his lunchbox. What he doesn't know is that the chain has unusual powers and was sent to Earth from a distant world, home to the Valorim civilization. Nor does he know that evil forces are determined to recover it. The action moves back and forth between worlds with Schmidt affecting a different style for each. The one used for our world is artful, accessible, and moving; the one for Valorim, less so. The problem with the latter is that it is inflated, filled with neologisms, and offers an uneasy mix of Malory and Tolkien ("The air was unfere, rucca with the odor of O'Mondim filth, and Young Waeglim wept, and he did not hide his tears, for such tears cannot be hidden"). And while the Valorim characters are types, not individuals, this happily cannot be said of Tommy, his family, and friends, who are uniformly well realized and engaging. Despite its flaws, the book is absorbing and imaginative and will be welcomed by fans of high fantasy. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Schmidt, already a best-seller and award winner, should pick up even more fans with this crowd-pleasing fantasy. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

On a distant planet, the besieged Valorim send a necklace containing their planet to Earth in a last-ditch effort to save their civilization. Tommy Pepper, a sixth-grader living in Plymouth, Mass., finds the necklace, wears it and is gradually changed by it. He doesn't acquire the otherworldly powers of a Superman, as the story's premise might suggest, but he does begin to utter unusual words and imagine a strange world with two suns. He begins to remember his recently deceased mother in fond detail that eases his loss. His uncanny drawings and paintings actually have movement and new kinetic powers help him silence bully Cheryl Lynn Lumpkin on the school bus. He even creates a living creature out of sand, reminiscent of the Golem of Jewish lore or David Almond's Clay (2006). Meanwhile, there's a behind-the-scenes intergalactic battle going on for the necklace, which fans of the movie Men in Black may find pleasantly familiar. Italicized scenes from the planet of the Valorim alternate with Tommy's narrative in Plymouth, though readers will be challenged by Schmidt's obvious delight in creating an Anglo-Saxon planet, which has a corresponding Old English vocabulary requiring a seven-page glossary. Spielberg, get ready for this boldly imagined outer-space offering. (Science fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

The Last Days of the Valorim

So the Valorim came to know that their last days were upon them. The Reced was doomed, and the Ethelim they had loved well and guarded long would fall under the sharp trunco of the faceless O'Mondim and the traitors who led them. The Valorim looked down from the high walls of the Reced and knew they would find no mercy in the dark fury of the O'Mondim massed below-none for all they had loved.
   Not a one of the Valorim did not weep for what would be lost forever.
   Not a one of the Ethelim did not fear what would come.
   But the Valorim would not yield, though day after day they watched the O'Mondim flash the gray metal of their trunco, though day after day they heard the O'Mondim pound at the barricaded gates of the Reced. But a First Sunrise finally came when the hearts of the Valorim began to beat with the rhythm of the battering rams, and by Second Sunrise, the gates could hold no more. The Valorim abandoned the Outer Court and fled into the Great Hall of the Reced, where the hanoraho had once sounded for the victories of the Valorim, and where there was none now left to play them. They barred the doors, and in the Great Hall, the sons of Brythelaf stayed with orluo drawn and held before them.
   The Valorim fell back into the inner courts, and then upward into the Council Room of the Ethelim, which held the Twelve Seats of the Reced. There did the ten daughters of Hild stand, while the last Elders of the Valorim were brought into the Tower, and the stout doors of the Tower closed and barricaded behind them-though none believed those doors would hold the tide of the faceless O'Mondim.
   And truly, when the O'Mondim found the Great Hall closed, their fury was renewed, and the last Elders heard the battering of the iron rams at the doors of the Great Hall, and the terrible groaning of the O'Mondim.
   Then spoke Ecthael, who had warned to no avail of the treachery of the Lord Mondus and the stirrings of the O'Mondim.
   "Now are the days of rancor ended. Now is the time of feuding over. Only these few remain of the Faithful Valorim, and when we have passed, who will stand by the Ethelim then? Who will guard the Twelve Seats? First Sunrise saw the blood of the O'Mondim spilled over the Reced steps, but Second Sunset will see our own. The Song is over. The Silence begins."
   Then spoke Brythelaf. He spoke words of anger. "Ever have you warned of the Silence," he said. "Ever have you spoken of unending woe." He faced the other Valorim. "I say this: It may be that our time is over. Perhaps the Silence that we beat back with the strength of our hearts at Brogum Sorg Cynna- there were gumena weardas!-perhaps that Silence may overwhelm us and the Ethelim we guard. It may be. But if it is to be, then let us take all our song, our story, our beloit, gliteloit, all we have made from our hearts, all we have brought against the Silence, and let us forge it together and send it out from us, so that the Art of the Valorim might still be heard and seen and known even when the Valorim are no longer. Then shall the Silence be defeated."
   A great cheer rose from the Valorim in the Tower, and from the ten daughters of Hild in the Council Room of the Ethelim, and from the sons of Brythelaf in the Great Hall, and the sound of it chilled the hearts of the O'Mondim, so that for a moment their long arms weakened, and the rams battering at the doors of the Great Hall faltered. But for a moment only-and then, terrible was the strength of the O'Mondim.
   So the Forge was heated again, as it had been long ago, heated in the uppermost of the Tower chambers, and one by one the Valorim Elders gave the songs of their hearts, and Young Waeglim shaped a Chain, green and silver, each link a piece of their Art, each link a piece of the Heart of the Valorim.
   His striking hammer sounded even as the doors of the Great Hall were broken and the O'Mondim leaped through. Fierce were the sons of Brythelaf waiting for them there, and fierce their vengeance upon the O'Mondim. But the O'Mondim were more than could be counted.
   Young Waeglim's hammer sounded even as the O'Mondim beat past the inner courts and upward into the Council Room of the Ethelim and beyond the Twelve Seats, where the ten daughters of Hild cleaved many before they too fell and the O'Mondim moved upward again.
   Young Waeglim's hammer sounded even as the Tower door was breached, and the Valorim Elders, unto Ecthael, gave themselves now from chamber to chamber, from staircase to staircase, so that Young Waeglim's hammer might not be stilled. But the Valorim were hewn down one by one, and the faceless O'Mondim came to the uppermost of the Tower chambers, where the last two of the Valorim held. There the O'Mondim battered and smashed against that door until the framing splintered.
   Then it was Brythelaf who stood in the doorway against the great and terrible host of the O'Mondim, his orlu before him. And it was Young Waeglim who stayed at the Forge, heating the last of the Art of the Valorim into the Chain. Grievous was the battle at the doorway, and grievous the wounds of the noble Brythelaf. But he would not yield, and he would not yield, not until Young Waeglim plucked the Chain of the Valorim Art from the fire of the Forge and carried it to the window of the Tower of the Reced. There he cupped the heated Chain to his chest, and when the Art of the Valorim beat with the song of his own heart, he held it out into the last dark light of setting Hengest, and on the breath of Young Waeglim's own Song and Thought, the Chain lifted away from him, higher, then higher, until it was so high that Young Waeglim could see its bright shining no more, and the Art of the Valorim flew from him and was gone.
   Then did Brythelaf fall, and Young Waeglim did turn to meet the O'Mondim triumphant.
   But the Chain of the Valorim Art flew upward, far away from the victory of the O'Mondim, and far from their sudden despair and fierce anger at the loss of what above all things the Lord Mondus had desired to hold in his hand, and for which he had hazarded all.
   And so Second Sunset fell over the Ethelim, and their Reced, and their world.
   But the Chain left that world, and the Song and Thought of Young Waeglim and the Art within that Chain gave it power. It flew past the highest clouds, through the blue air, and into the dark of cold and black space. It flew past moons and planets, past stars whose songs the Valorim had learned and sung, beyond the constellations that wheeled over their world and whose stories the Valorim had told the Ethelim. The Chain flew past comets and nebulae, and past more stars, strange constellations, and so, finally, out of the galaxy of that world.
   And still it flew on through the cold darkness, past farther galaxies that had once shone to the Valorim like distant stars, and which the Chain tumbled by until it left those galaxies as small as single stars again. And so through cold light and colder darkness and cold light and colder darkness, the Chain sped.
   And sped.
   And sped, until listen! It came to a small wheeling galaxy, and to a single small star at the edge of that galaxy, and to a single small planet-blue like its own-that rolled around that star. The Chain streaked past its moon and shuddered into its canopy, where it fell, glittering in the light of the strange, single sun. It fell, passing through the cold mist of high white clouds, down through their shadows and into the sunlight again. It fell, cooling as it went, down toward the sea and the green land and the red brick building, until, with a final tumble, the Chain of the Valorim Art, the Chain that held their Song, the Chain that was all that was left against the Silence, struck a window ledge, dangled through, skidded across a white plastic table top, fell toward a gray plastic bench, and dropped into the Ace Robotroid Adventure lunch box of Tommy Pepper, sixth- grader, of the class of Mr. Burroughs, of William Bradford Elementary School, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
   It took some time before Tommy noticed.

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