Fresh from their experiences with Quasimodo in the series opener (Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, 2012), three young people again use an elusive inventor’s magic, painted circle to bring a literary character to life.
Choosing to call up Captain Ahab because he’s “the only really interesting character in Moby-Dick,” teen twins Linus and Ophelia and their hunky British buddy Walter embark on a project to turn the sailor away from his obsession with killing the white whale. Though a silly, strung-out deception involving a live cougar and a big plush lion that ends with Walter almost drowning in the nearby river provides little more than comic relief, by the time Ahab has to sink back into his story, he’s come around to understanding that the real issue isn’t the whale but his own wounded pride. Along with a remarkable number of continuing side plots, Samson tucks in frequent commentary about the use of clichés, point of view and like writerly topics from a particularly unlikable intrusive narrator who dubs himself “Bartholomew Inkster, self-taught literary fussbudget.” He also includes short (spoiler-free) dialogues on character, values and motivation—both in Moby-Dick and in general. Next up: D’Artagnan!
Though plainly crafted to spark and model book discussions, the tale is generously infused with animating elements of mystery, romance and comedy—plus a particularly lively and diverse supporting cast of grown-ups. (Fantasy. 12-14)