Cordelia Clay helps her father, Cornelius, rescue injured and endangered monsters, restoring them to health in the ramshackle family mansion; when her father and the monsters disappear, she sets out to find them.
Gregory, a homeless orphan whose sick zombie puppy—a zuppy—she cured, insists on joining Cordelia’s dangerous quest. The baby dragon with a broken wing and the elderly filch found hidden in the oven can’t be left behind, either, as those aware that monsters do exist advocate exterminating them. Traveling by foot, rail, hot air balloon, and—after Cordelia resolves a pixie infestation—sailing ship, the children flee across Boston, seek out a Manhattan circus featuring monsters, and visit a Nova Scotia university, encountering anxious monsters posing as humans along the way. In this grimy, Dickensian world, an alternate-history Gilded Age, vast wealth coexists with grinding poverty and fear of the other runs deep: Where fear rules, difference is the enemy. Cordelia’s mother, author of a definitive natural history of monsters, held more benign views, convinced that the two evolutionary branches, Animalia (ours) and Prodigia (monsters), were relatives sharing a common origin, but died before proving her theory. While resourceful Cordelia and stalwart Gregory are good company, the monsters are standouts, manifesting, like all animals, unique natural attributes and proclivities (described in a comprehensive guide). Charming or alarming, these creatures and their world, rendered in abundant, imaginative detail, beg for further exploration. (Human characters seem to be white in Aldridge’s woodcutlike illustrations.)
Enchanting. (Fantasy. 8-14)