Well, I found it. After years of searching the internet, asking librarians and others with expertise in "stumpers", combing through old libraries and junk stores, I finally found it. This a book I vividly remembered reading, checked out from my elementary school library, loving it so much that scenes stuck in my head for almost 40 years. The book whose title I couldn't remember, with characters whose names I couldn't recall, a cover I couldn't remember. I knew nothing other than this for sure: it was a world without adults, run by children, who were magically transported there, but not by a wardrobe. It wasn't Narnia, and it wasn't a dystopia.
I did a search a series of search on Worldcat - I don't now remember the exact search terms, but it was some combination of words found in this online catalog description: "Blaming adults for the evils of their society, a black boy, a Chinese boy, and a Puerto Rican girl wish themselves to a land populated exclusively by kids, only to find it plagued by the same evils for which they must now accept responsibility." I knew I read the book (unless I had actually experienced it; a little bit of me was hoping for that) sometime in the late 1970s; 1980 at the latest. I did a search year by year. I think I had tried this type of search before, but finally gave up. But this time had the charm, and my search returned a result: Adam in Blunderland by Bob Teague. It sounded right. I ordered a copy online. And then, when it arrived, I waited a while to read it. I didn't just pick it up and jump right in. Something felt weird.
Maybe because ? this was the almost last stumpers and the most important one too; I had solved all the others. Takers and Returns (which I now own). The Big Joke Game (I don't yet own this, because it is really expensive; I guess other people feel about the book the same way I do). The Cookie Tree (now own it). The Bernard Evelin book of free myths. There is still one stumper left - a book my fourth grade teacher read us, that had basenji dogs who could climb trees, and some sort of mystery; still looking for that one). This was the book I had been looking for, for years and years and years, in used book shops, antique stores. One time, I found Castaways from Lilliput sitting on a shelf in a Goodwill type junk shop for $3 (I snatched it right up). I kept hoping I would find this book, even though I didn't even know the name.
Maybe because when I starting leafing through pages, I could tell right way that at the book wasn't all that good. And once I finally read it, I knew it wasn't very good. What about the book back then did I like so much that I remembered it for nearly 40 years? Some of the details I remembered were wrong (Jack O'Lantern Street was Pumpkin Plaza). I remembered an illustration that didn't exist too (although the scene was in the book, just not illustrated). There wasn't a red-headed gang like I thought either.
I guess after all these years, there was the book I had imagined and written in my head, which was exciting and life changing and amazing; and the actual book, which was none of those things. Memory is a strange beast that lives inside our heads. We tell ourselves stories that are truer than actuality.
Adam in Blunderland by Bob Teague
This was a book I had originally read in fourth or fifth grade. I couldn't remember the title, and had been searching for it for nearly 40 years. I finally found it doing a year by year search with some specific keywords that fit in Worldcat. I can't even being to guess what it was about this book that appealed to my 9 year old self so much that I remember details from it for so many years, and through thousands of books read. I hate to say it, but the book I wrote in my head for all of these years is better than the actual book. Memory is a strange beast, rampaging through your mind, changing things. making things better (or maybe worse). That's certainly true for Adam in Blunderland. It's still an interesting concept, but oh wow, not very well written.
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