Author: R.L. LeFever
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Themes: Family Tradition, Adventure
Age Range: 3rd-5th Grade
Summary: from Goodreads
Nathaniel Fludd’s life has taken a turn for the worst. With his parents lost at sea, he lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin—the world’s last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world’s only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone.
Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and rescue his guardian from the Bedouin? If he fails, nothing will stand between the world’s mythical creatures and extinction.
I have always been a fan of fantasy novels. Ever since my parents gave me the Narnia books for Christmas when I was 10, I have loved being swept away to imaginary lands full of rare and mysterious people and creatures. As such, I had high hopes for this series.
Nathaniel is definitely a sad sort of boy. Left behind while his parents went on an expedition in the arctic, stuck in the care of a woman who cares less for him than for the money she gets for taking care of him, Nathaniel longs to be old enough to accompany his parents on their journeys. When news comes that they have been lost at sea, his caregiver wastes no time in dumping him on his only remaining relative-a cousin he has never met-in fact, never even knew existed.
But in cousin Phil (short for Philomena), he discovers a rich source of family lore, and discovers that he is the last in a long line of Fludds who did the most dangerous and most important of jobs-caring for the mythological beasts that most of the world believes to be imaginary. And it isn't long before he gets his first taste of adventure, as Aunt Phil whisks him off to Arabia to guard over the birth of a new phoenix. Of course, flying there in her two seater plane, accidentally adopting a gremlin, and having to rescue his aunt from an angry Bedouin chieftain was more than he bargained for. Even so, Nathaniel rises to the challenge in true Fludd style.
As narratives go this one moves pretty quickly. There is very little in the way of character development or backstory when it comes to anyone other than Nathaniel. That said, I enjoyed it almost as much as I'd hoped. It reads a bit like the Series of Unfortunate Events books, though without the caustic narrator that made those books so unique. While the book does deal with the loss of Nathaniel's parents and his general fears and anxiety, it doesn't really lend itself to serious discussion. Mostly it is an enjoyable romp through an alternate past, and as the first of a series promises many more romps to come. I think it would make a great addition to a classroom library, especially for those kids that are fascinated by mythical creatures.