This debut title in a planned middle-grade series introduces readers to a feisty young sleuth, fantastical realms, and warring Viking gods.
When Prudence Potts, 11, receives a mysterious letter with the puzzling question, “What is the unbelievable FIB?” her world—already disrupted by her father’s recent death—is turned upside down. Prudence bristles with attitude: clashing with her tiresome teacher and holding her sympathetic mother at arm’s length, she finds an unlikely ally in ABE, a new kid with a helpful knack for decoding clues. Tapped by the mysterious Mr. Fox to assist the Fantasy Investigation Bureau, the two must learn more about why mythical Norse beings are slipping into town, bent on stealing the powerful Eye of Odin, while discerning whether Mr. Fox—or anyone—can be trusted. Pru’s revelation about her anger (whose underpinnings unveil the illusion that adults can keep themselves—or anyone—safe) seems a touch contrived; however, this story offers pleasing elements, including an authentic boy-girl friendship, fresh musings on the place of magic in childhood, and original, vividly depicted scenes (check out Mr. Fox’s henhouse, a tiny shack with nearly infinite possibilities inside).
Shaughnessy’s imaginings show promise, and his puzzles and plot twists will absorb and intrigue younger readers as they consider the book’s central questions about truth, magic, and adventure. (Fantasy. 8-12)