The low-key dystopia pictured in this inventive tale may not strike a chill into the hearts of young readers, but it’s sure to disconcert adults.
The highly connected, technological future in which Henrietta Gad-Fly lives feels appallingly possible. Safety is the primary social force, solitude is unknown, traffic jams clog the roads and horns have been replaced by “Honk Ads,” which relentlessly tout upgraded cell phones and promote conspicuous consumption. Awkward and lonely, Henrietta is surprised and pleased to make two friends in the space of a few days. Oddly enough, Gary and Rose both share her propensity for headaches. The discovery of a “wild housecat” in Henrietta’s attic leads all three to learn more about the past, connects Henrietta to her family in new ways and eventually sparks a confrontation with the creature (or program?) that is draining their energy and causing them pain. Along the way, Arntson touches on the value of knowledge, the destruction of the environment and the importance of individuality, as well as offering intriguing glimpses of a number of imaginary animals. Most of Terrazzini’s black-and-white illustrations resemble cut-paper silhouettes and provide a suitably stark vision of Henrietta’s world. A few wispier grey-on-grey drawings are included, ostensibly on pages of the antique Bestiary the children consult, and these are variously whimsical and frightening.
Provocative and offbeat. (Fantasy. 10-14)