It’s already May and I’m falling way behind with my book reviews. I think I need to make them shorter, smarter, and snappier. Not sure that’s within my skill set, but here goes! Thomas Taylor has featured on these hallowed pages before, and he’s one of my favorite children’s authors. With his latest book, Malamander, Taylor improves on his already impeccable record. Here are 5 reasons why you should read it.
1. The best character names of any book ever
Many of the names may go over your kids’ heads, but there’s lots of clever nostalgia-twanging nomenclature going on here.
2. It’s Grand Budapest Hotel for kids
The action starts at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, which immediately conjures images of something out of Wes Anderson’s instant-classic film. Herbie is the “Lost and Founder,” who works in the Lost and Found office. It’s his job to reunite for things left at the hotel with their owners. Some of these things have been lying around for decades, which further taps into the Anderson-like surreal vibe. When Violet Parma turns up, it turns out she went missing, along with her parents 12 years earlier. Herbie vows to help Violet find her parents again. Their search takes them to the…
3. The Eerie Book Dispensary
Book geeks will love this place. As will your kids when they read it. A peculiar bookshop where you don’t choose the books, but they choose you. With the help of a macabre mechanical monkey. What’s not to love?
4. The nautical theme
The Malamander is mythical sea creature (with, it has to be said, a fabulous back story.) The Grand Nautilus Hotel is in a town called Eerie on Sea. There’s a fish and chip shop on the pier. Malamander channels British Seaside faded grandeur. There’s even a rolling sea mist for atmospheric effect. The setting of the book is part of what makes it so great. A seaside town in winter. Empty, yet filled with potential.
5. The story
All of the above would be pointless without a good story, which Malamander has in spades. This is a classic children’s adventure caper, with mythological sea-monsters, shadowy villains, and age-old vendettas. There are the spirits of deceased mariners, magic heart stones, a peculiar museum, and of course, missing parents. If that wasn’t all, there’s a fantastical camera obscura that is a genius creation.
Taylor keeps ramping up the tension and throws in unexpected curve balls from time to time, that leave the reader wondering who the good guys are after all.
The novel’s conclusion is most satisfactory and is left open for further adventures for Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder of the Grand Nautilus Hotel.
Malamander is an engaging middle-grade read that is suffused with gentle humor throughout. Engaging characters, inventive setting, and an intriguing central mystery will keep young readers entranced to the very end.
Malamander is published on May 2nd in the UK, and you can pick up a copy, here. US readers will have to wait until the Autumn to pick up their copy. It’s available for pre-order, here.
If you’d like to find out more about the book, it’s characters and setting, check out Eerie-on-sea.com.
If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other 5 Reasons to Read posts, here.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Malamander . All opinions expressed here are my own.