An undeniably charming story about the characters, albeit one-dimensional, who form a family at Oddfellow’s Orphanage.
Headmaster Oddfellow Bluebeard, tame relation to the infamous Bluebeard, and Professor Stella dash off at night to rescue Delia. By morning, they have brought her back to Oddfellow’s Orphanage, haven to peculiar children orphaned by events natural, unexplained or, in two cases, jarringly violent. Here, bears dance, cooks serve hot chocolate and staff call their charges “dear.” The residents include Delia, who does not speak (readers never find out exactly why), tattooed Imogen, Hugo the hedgehog boy, “onion-headed” Ollie and several others, some of whom do not merit more than a mention. In her debut, Martin relies on third-person narration and uses adjectives such as “cozy,” “twinkling” and “pretty” to set a scene of happy companionship. Although somewhat reminiscent of Hogwarts, with classes such as cryptozoology (“the study of mysterious and possibly imagined animals”) and F.T. (“fairy tales and folktales”) Studies, readers will find no bullies or evil at Oddfellow’s. The rare time that one child misbehaves, all is forgiven. Small, safe adventures take place between March and New Year’s, when a new babe appears on the doorstep. Pencil drawings appear throughout (final art not seen), adding to the feeling of warmth.
An uneven effort; still, youngsters not ready for Harry Potter will find comfort here. (Fantasy. 7-10)