Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist Book One)

Author: R. L. LaFevers
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin for Children 2009

Nathaniel Fludd was left by his parents several years ago with a governess named Miss Lumpkin while his parents explored. The original plan was to send for him at the age of 8. Years passed without word until a lawyer shares that his parents have been declared lost at sea and that he will be sent to live with a distant cousin on his father's side. The cousin Phil A. Fludd is not at all what Nathaniel or the reader anticipates and just like that a drastic change happens.

I enjoyed this book and think it will be a perfect read for my 2nd graders. It is a challenge to find books that meets their level of reading sophistication while recognizing their overall innocence. This book fits that bill with simple story lines and just the right amount of complexity. The introduction of beasts such as the phoenix, dodo, and non-beast such as a gremlin named Greasle will keep readers engaged. The book does have a flaw in my opinion and I'll be interested to hear what the kids think. The book takes a left turn when trying to rescue Phil Fludd from the Bedouin that was implausibly convenient. I'm not a fan of this story technique (remember Dan Brown's character leaping out of the crashing helicopter and landing safely because of a square yard of fabric??). I am hopeful that the series has developed more fully. I do have a large willing suspension of disbelief  but it can be exceeded and this pushed that boundary.

However, I am already thinking perhaps we should start a Beastology Anthology or something and encouraging the kids to research griffins, unicorns, basilisks, manticores... which means I'll have to dig around first. I just saw a book the other day that might provide just the right framework for such an assignment. Hmmm, I'm going to have to check out Michael Hearst's book Unusual Creatures: A mostly accurate account of some of Earth's strangest creatures all over again. The illustrations and style of Unusual Creatures along with the fictional nature of Nathaniel Fludd, now that could be Fun! 

Want more? Here is the webpage to explore more things Nathaniel Fludd. (linked here)

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