Author LaFever scores another hit with this, the fourth book in the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. The story of 10-year old Nathaniel, as he attempts to master the family profession of beastologist and unlock the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of his family continues to appeal. In the first book Nathaniel has received word that his parents are missing and presumed lost at sea. Swept up by his somewhat enigmatic aunt, Phil A. Fludd, he has learned that he is the last in a long family line of "beastologists", whose role it is to study animals thought to be mythological or extinct.
In this book, Nathaniel and his aunt are called to the aid of an ailing unicorn, although Nate is seriously conflicted, wanting instead to pursue some recently discovered clues regarding the fate of his parents. But Aunt Phil is firm that the beasts come first, and the pair, with Nate’s gremlin friend Greasle, set off for Broceliand forest and the unicorn. But once there, they are confronted by their villainous relative Obediah Fludd, who is in pursuit of the unicorn’s horn. Obediah provides proof that Nate’s parents are alive, and claims to have them imprisoned, offering to release them in exchange for Aunt Phil’s copy of "The Book of Beasts," a guide to all the remaining mythical creatures. While Nate is desperate enough to agree, Aunt Phil stands firm that her responsibility is to protect the beasts. With a desperate ruse, they manage to thwart Obediah and, with some unexpected help from Greasel, oversee the birth of a new unicorn.
However, they ultimately learn that Obediah himself was dishonest, and did not have Nate’s parents. He does, however, unwittingly provide some clues that offer possibilities for solving the mystery, and in the end Nate and his Aunt dedicate themselves to continuing the search. Children who love fantasy, myths, and exotic settings will enjoy reading about Nate as he discovers his inner hero, and the continually developing story line will keep readers coming back for more.
The straightforward text, short chapters, and plentiful pen and ink sketches make this an accessible and enjoyable series for middle readers.
Recommended by Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director