Book Review: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom

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Book Review: Dr. Fell and the Playground of DoomDr. Fell and the Playground of Doom by David Neilsen
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on August 9th 2016
Pages: 240

“Such deliciously creepy fun! I fell in love with Dr. Fell! So will urchins and whippersnappers everywhere.” —Chris Grabenstein, author of the New York Times bestsellers Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and The Island of Dr. Libris  

When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids’ hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor’s spell.  

Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery.


Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is a debut novel by David Neilsen and I was very excited to dive into this book. My students are always asking for more scary books and I am always happy to find a new story that gives a bit of a scare. When Jerry, Nancy, and Gail first meet Dr. Fell, their new neighbor, they inform him that his house used to be a bit of play place for the neighborhood kids and he seemed aggrieved at the situation. He uses a lot of adult fancy talk, which he usually translates later for the kids and adults as he is talking. He’s quite strange and old and bony, the kids notice but things get even stranger after.

A large playground appears in front of Dr. Fell’s house, a gift to the children and soon even the adults are loving him along with the children. For some reason Jerry, Nancy and Gail are not drawn into the playground. Something seems off, but they aren’t quite sure what is going on. When kids start becoming injured and healed miraculously, they know something is fishy. Even more sinister is everyone starting to suddenly say “What a nice man is Dr. Fell”. Especially after they visit him.

Now, I haven’t yet to talk about the main characters. Jerry is Gail’s little brother, who her best friend Nancy often calls Dorknose. They are always together it seems, although Jerry is definitely the one who has all the ideas and plans floating around to try to find out what Dr. Fell is doing. Nancy’s character is interesting because she is outspoken and quite angry at her mother, who she thinks is the reason her father left. She proves herself courageous and ready for anything. Gail is the quietest of the three main characters, she usually does not like causing any trouble, but she knows something is wrong with Dr. Fell and his playground and must be stopped.

Dr. Fell himself is quite a charming character, who has all the ladies of the neighborhood falling over one another. I found that there were very few male character interactions of a fatherly kind. Whenever Dr. Fell talks to an adult, it’s usually a mother who is all swoony and overly thankful for everything he does. Interesting that I just realized that.

The writing in the book is fantastic, I love the dialogue and the way everything melded together throughout the book. I couldn’t put it down for long without wondering what would happen next. It has a fast-paced plot with a mystery and some evil to be stopped and an unknown hero that pops up at the end of the book. I definitely think this is a book a lot of my students would enjoy, especially as Halloween creeps around the corner.


Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom twists creepy with humor and tells a story you won’t soon forget.

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