A funny, engaging YA adventure with an important lesson at its core.
Brody Boondoggle, an intrepid 12-year-old, is out with his hilariously verbose (and hard-of-hearing) Grammy walking in the woods when they spot a strange creature across the pond. Brody’s curiosity leads to a bite on his eyebrow, but the interaction awakens a special power inside him that Grammy heartily encourages but his older, more rational brother, Jake, refuses to believe. Brody’s new fantastical, animal trait–based skill set—he need only concentrate on, say, a locust or a flying squirrel to adopt its particular physical qualities—also alienates his best friend, Rudy, which leads to a rivalry that threatens not only their friendship but an entire magical world that includes talking crabs and elusive fish. When the magical creature that bit Brody—an Akaway, whom Jake can’t see at first—begins to weaken, it’s up to Brody to confront an epidemic of indifference to magic, which has been brought about by a particularly addictive video game. What follows is a spirited journey of self-discovery and a celebration of childish imagination, as well as an exploration of kids’ resourcefulness and inherent goodness. Important, though far from didactic, teaching moments abound, wrapped in exciting descriptions and incorporated easily and naturally into the story. Author Karton has an ear finely tuned to the rhythms and sweet absurdities of childhood patter, and his tale has enough fabulous twists and turns to keep even the most grown-up young adults intrigued. While the writing falls in the well-plumbed tradition of adventure tales—readers will recognize a number of fondly made references—the villain and resolution are wonderfully original. Adults reading to children will also delight in the wholesomely irreverent tone and moments of linguistic fancy.
A refreshingly imaginative, emotionally satisfying quest for all ages.