Adventure abounds when a pale and grubby London street urchin escapes the city to work for an eccentric scientist.
After a life spent scrambling for food and running from his evil parents, 12-year-old Henry Hewitt can hardly believe his luck when Sir Richard Blackstone hires him as his personal assistant. Sir Richard is fearless when it comes to his quest to make the world a better place through science. However, most of his experiments end as epic fails. When an experiment gone awry yields a tarantula as big as a mail coach that then escapes, Sir Richard and Henry give chase. Unfortunately, the giant arachnid descends on the duchess’s annual croquet party, terrifying the guests and bringing the wrath of the local council down on the duke. While Sir Richard and Henry manage to contain the spider in the forest, rumors fly about the evil hidden in the trees. This makes Henry even more fearful that his secret—he has six toes on each foot—will be revealed and thought to be the devil’s mark. This clever period story set in an all-white Victorian England is equal parts mystery, adventure, and fun. Unfortunately, the engaging story loses its way after a while, meandering aimlessly before concluding abruptly with a confusing and unbelievable reveal, but Henry’s likable enough to keep readers turning the pages anyway.
A (mostly) good beastly adventure. (Historical science fiction. 8-12)