The thief of always is somewhat difficult to classify in that “unabridged fairy tale” kind of way. It’s a horror novel that features a ten year old protagonist, but it’s not exactly an “adult” book, nor is it really a children’s book. Originally published in 1992 and illustrated by the author, there was a graphic novel adaptation by IDW in the early 2000s. It’s one of the more well known books in a genre that’s surprisingly underpopulated. I’d guess that authors are hesitant to write straight-up horror geared towards both children are adults. It would be astoundly easy to write a book that is too “adult”, making it difficult to publish and market as well as inviting the outrage of upset parents, but it would be just as easy to write a book that’s not adult enough, that ends up too elementary for older readers. The thief of always walks that line very well.
Harvey Swick is the 10 year old spiritual descendent of Milo of The phantom tollbooth. Dissatisfied with his life, he dreams of being whisked away to somewhere more interesting. To his surprise, this happens when a thin man with an improbably large grin arrives to take him to Mr. Hood’s Holiday House, a paradise for children where Christmas happens every night. Harvey quickly realizes that all is not as it seems, and when he starts to become homesick discovers that returning home is harder than he expected.