, a 1990 children’s science fiction novel written by Australian author, Emily Rodda, follows the adventures of Patrick, a boy who crosses a Barrier between our world and a parallel one to compete on a strange television game show. As Patrick searches for missing objects for the show, he gains confidence and courage, and learns to recognize that people are more important than possessions. Rodda combines humor and suspense to explore common sibling and family problems.
Patrick, the middle child in his family, often feels frustrated and forgotten. His baby brother, Danny, gets a lot of attention from his busy mom, Judith. Patrick’s teenage older sister, Claire, doesn’t have time for him either. Patrick’s friend, Michael, is an only child and doesn’t relate to Patrick’s family situation.
On the way home from school, Patrick stops in a computer store to play a game on one of the demo computers. A message appears onscreen, inviting him to compete in Finders Keepers, a TV game show. Patrick accepts the invitation and is directed to tune in to Channel 8 at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning. When Patrick attempts to tell his friends and family about this amazing opportunity, no one believes him, not even his pale, gentle, confused babysitter, Estelle.
Judith ruins Patrick’s hopes of tuning in to the show when she takes him to the Chestnut Village shopping mall Saturday morning to buy sneakers. As the special mall clock gets ready to strike ten, Patrick races to an appliance store and finds a television, turning on Channel 8. Suddenly, Patrick is surrounded by lights and cameras and a cheering studio audience.
The game show host, smiling and superficial Lucky Lance Lamont, explains that Patrick has crossed the Barrier into a different time stream. When there is a break in the Barrier, objects from both sides are sucked across. This explains the disappearance of everyday items like socks and keys. Things from the other world appear faded and less valuable than in their own worlds.
Patrick must return home and locate the missing treasures that the three Seekers on the show have lost. Boopie Cupid, a bubbly, good-humored blonde lady in a yellow feathered dress, is the co-host of the show. When Patrick learns that he could win the computer of his dreams, he agrees to play, taking the role of Finder. The three Seekers each give Patrick a clue to their lost treasures in the form of a rhyming
riddle. Patrick must solve the first Seeker’s riddle, find the missing item, and return in a week. Boopie Cupid takes Patrick to meet Max, the show’s tech expert, who gives Patrick a locater broach that will beep when he gets close to a lost object.
Max returns Patrick to the mall. Patrick knows he can’t tell his mother about his experience because she will think he was just imagining things, which “he had to admit he often did.” Over the next week, Patrick believes he has solved the first riddle. He must get back to the mall and collect an antique case of hummingbirds. Estelle agrees to take Patrick to the mall where he discovers that the box is not for sale. Feeling sorry for him, the clerk gives him a dusty old book. Patrick realizes this is the true treasure and returns to the show. He spins the prize wheel but does not win the computer.
Patrick must find the next missing treasure. While he is waiting for Max to fix his computer and send him home, Patrick overhears workers talking about TBE—Trans Barrier Effect. He learns that if he stays too long on this side of the Barrier, he will start losing his memories and eventually fade away.
The last Seeker, a young lady named Wendy Minelli, shows Patrick the Barrier. It is a “glimmer in the air” that Patrick can’t see through, stretching from horizon to horizon and higher than he can see. The Barrier is covered with sentry boxes for the Barrier Guards, who inspect sections looking for cracks and who toss back objects that pop through. Wendy was once a top-notch Barrier Guard but was fired for a single mistake. If Patrick finds her lost object, she can return to the Guards. Patrick also meets Ruby, a Barrier-comber who scavenges for objects the Guards miss.
Patrick easily solves the second riddle thanks to his sister, Claire’s suggestion, but the object is a ring that Estelle loves. Patrick faces a moral dilemma: to win the computer, he would have to steal the ring from Estelle. He knows this would be a huge betrayal of her trust and kindness. Then Patrick has a revelation. He pulls Estelle and the ring through the Barrier, breaking Max’s computer. Estelle is no longer a pale, shadowy person, but the vibrant missing sister of Boopie Cupid, who accidentally lost her across the Barrier. Max fixes the computer in time to send Patrick home, but without the chance to find the third object, the stuffed rabbit that would win Wendy’s job back.
At home, Patrick gives the prizes he has already won to his family members, saying he won them at the mall. Danny, in turn, gives Patrick an old rabbit he found. Patrick realizes this is the last object he needed to find. When a set of keys disappears, Patrick tosses the rabbit through the Barrier. Patrick thinks fondly of his adventure and misses the people he met on the other side of the Barrier. One day, Patrick receives a box addressed to “Patrick, Champion Finder.” Inside is the computer Patrick has always wanted, including a special disk from Max that will let Patrick keep in touch with his new friends. Patrick is overjoyed and feels that his “heart is full.”Finders Keepers
was chosen as a Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers in 1991, and along with its sequel, The Timekeeper
, was made into a television series called The Finder