Warning: ‘Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom’ May Captivate Young Readers [REVIEW]

Dr. Fell and Jerry

Although some of the neighborhood children might be fooled by creepy Dr. Fell, Jerry thinks the old man is up to something. (Illustration by Will Terry)

For years, the abandoned old house at the end of the block has been the neighborhood children’s playground. It has also provided fodder for plenty of speculation and more than a little gossip. When an elderly stranger moves in, his presence sends the whole community into a tizzy. Who is he? Why is he here? Where did he come from? And perhaps most important, what is he up to? Find out in David Neilsen’s debut novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. 


Crown Books for Young Readers

For years, Hardscrabble Street was just like any other residential neighborhood. Its residents had big imaginations. From parents to little children, they all had concocted stories about the large brick house at the end of the road, but no one quite knew the truth about who had lived there, even though it had sat empty for a generation.

Then one day moving trucks appear and a new tenant moves in named Dr. Fell. Everyone is curious about their new neighbor and what is in all the huge boxes that are unloaded in front of his home. Parents are disappointed by his arrival, but the children are devastated. Dr. Fell’s presence means they can no longer play in the old house.

When Dr. Fell learns how distraught the children are, he has a magnificent playground built the very next day. When the children get home from school, they are amazed and enthralled. Soon, the new playground is swarming with kids, right under Dr. Fell’s nose. But there are three children who aren’t as willing to embrace their new neighbor. In fact, they think he’s up to no good and they quickly suspect that the playground is a ruse, constructed to entrap them and their friends. Are their suspicions correct? Is Dr. Fell an evil man waiting to pounce, or is he simply a kind benefactor who loves to make children happy?

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is David Neilsen’s love letter to children everywhere, particularly those with inquisitive minds, big imaginations and serious trust issues. Parents and kids alike will love reading this charming story. It is thrilling, packed full of surprises, and casts a spell over its readers. It also makes a wonderful bedtime story that can be devoured together.

Dr. Fell's playground

Dr. Fell builds the ultimate playground for his young neighbors. (Illustration by Will Terry)

I loved  Dr. Fell. He’s one of those characters who walks the fine line between harmless and ominous, keeping us guessing as to his true intentions. If Vincent Price were still alive today, he could easily play this character. But the wily trio of children who are on to Dr. Fell (Gail, Nancy, and Jerry) are equally entertaining. As their suspicions grow, so does their friendship, and they ingeniously strive to thwart Dr. Fell at every turn.

I must also praise David Neilsen as a true master storyteller. He has a knack for creating a world that we want to populate, or at least occupy for a while, because it is both oddly familiar and yet equally mysterious. Similar to Lemony Snicket before him, Neilsen seems to revel romping about on Hardscrabble Street with his multi-layered characters, and it makes us want to join in on the fun.

Will Terry’s incredible illustrations also assist in luring us into this delightfully dark tale. Drawn in black and white, the pictures he creates have a decidedly noir feel, adding to the book’s creep factor, which only makes this story haunt us even more. Still, Terry’s imagination soars, right atop Neilsen’s own wings, and they work harmoniously together to deliver a book that is destined to be a classic.

It comes as no surprise that Dr. Fell became a GoodReads Choice Awards semifinalist and was chosen as one of Amazon’s Editor’s Picks as one of the Best Books of the month. And now I hear that there is even a chance that Dr. Fell might make his way to the stage soon as a musical, which will surely garner Neilsen even more fans in years to come.

If you are a parent looking for a great story to share with your kids, full of malice and adventure and smart, brave children willing to take on anything, pick up this book. Dr. Fell is one of those tales that will fuel their dreams, make them look forward to reading, and will likely have them up turning pages with flashlights in hand long after you tell them to go to sleep.


David Neilsen

David Neilsen

David Neilsen is the author of Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom and several other odd, weird, and slightly disturbing books and stories.

He is also a classically trained actor and storyteller, a journalist, and a theater/improvisation teacher for children and adults.

Each October, he can be found telling spooky stories to audiences of all ages throughout the Hudson River Valley and in New York City.

His one-man performances based on the work of horror author H.P. Lovecraft have sent many screaming into the hills in search of their sanity.

David lives in Tarrytown, New York with his family. You may visit his home on the Web, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.


Will Terry

Will Terry

Will Terry is a longtime freelance illustrator whose work has been featured in Helen Ketteman’s There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant, Margery Cuyler’s Skeleton for Dinner, Margaret Read MacDonald’s Little Rooster’s Diamond Button, and numerous other titles, including several indie e-books and a story app series with Rick Walton.

In all, he has illustrated about 30 children’s books for publishing houses like Random House, Simon and Schuster, Scholastic, Penguin, Klutz, and Albert Whitman.

Prior to illustrating children’s books, Will obtained his BFA at Brigham Young University and worked for magazines and newspapers in the Washington D.C. area, including TimeMoney, and the Wall Street Journal.

Visit Will’s home on the Web, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

By David Neilsen
Illustrated by Will Terry
Ages 8 – 12. Grades 3 – 7.
240 pgs. Crown Books for Young Readers. $16.99

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to Warning: ‘Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom’ May Captivate Young Readers [REVIEW]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    Are you a parent looking for a new story to share with your child? Look no further than David Neilsen’s deliciously ominous debut novel, DR. FELL AND THE PLAYGROUND OF DOOM. Our reviewer guarantees your kids will love it!

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