This British import combines familiar fantasy elements and quirky details to create a tale filled with transformation and danger.
Twelve-year-old Lettie’s story begins in the seaside inn on stilts that she manages for her absent mother (an alchemist) and alcoholic father. A mysterious guest arrives, claiming to have a gift for her. He then leads Lettie, her newfound friend, Noah, two greedy old women, and a whaling ship full of menacing sailors on a frantic chase to a faraway iceberg. Lettie’s da goes along for the ride too, though he’s been changed into a bottle of beer and so can’t offer assistance or support. Young Noah, on the other hand, provides sustenance both physical and emotional, as well as transportation and protection. The twisty plot occasionally seems to veer off course, but Lettie ultimately makes a number of surprising discoveries, all of which lead to the unusual but more-or-less happy ending. Debut author Gayton uses fanciful language that adds to the fairy-tale feel while also painting fiercely frightening portraits of his various villains. Bernatene’s black-and-white pictures illuminate key scenes, introduce the three sections, and decorate chapter headings.
There’s plenty of action and creative plotting, but some readers may find it difficult to warm up to the offbeat characters and thus be reluctant to follow Lettie all the way to the grand finale. (Fantasy. 8-12)