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ODDITY by Eli Brown

ODDITY

by Eli Brown ; illustrated by Karin Rytter

Pub Date: March 30th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0851-1
Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

A determinedly offbeat historical American fantasy.

Brown’s first entry into children’s literature preserves his peculiar brand of whimsy in an episodic, often perilous adventure enlivened by charming woodcut-style illustrations. In an alternate 19th century, the Louisiana Purchase failed, leading to war, and now three powers—France, the 11 Unified States, and the Sehanna Confederation—exist in uneasy balance. Thirteen-year-old Clover’s obsession with oddities, strange things that are somehow more—the Wineglass that never runs dry, the Ice Hook that creates its own ice—seems harmless, but oddities killed her mother and attract the bandits who kill her Russian father and precipitate the plot. What follows is a journey through a world with elements both familiar (slavery, rotten politicians, and eager warmongers) and strange. Along the way to the climax, Clover makes friends and enemies and grows up quickly. The vivid sense of place, even pacing, and memorable characterization—including multiple strong girl characters—are real strengths. However, the alternate history narrative may be better appreciated by readers familiar with actual events and therefore able to place the fantasy-world Native nations (inspired by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) and the history of European colonization in context. The advanced vocabulary makes this a good choice for sophisticated readers. Main characters are White; Clover’s neighbor and mother figure is a formerly enslaved Black woman. Clover’s village of Salamander Lake is a place where, in contrast to other locations in this world, people of different ethnicities mingle as equals.

Intriguing.

(map, catalog of oddities) (Historical fantasy. 11-14)