This first book in a projected series introduces 10-year old Nathaniel Fludd, as he is receiving the news that his parents, whom he has not seen in three years, have been reported lost at sea after their airship crashed on the ice near the North Pole.Nate is packed off as a house guest to a previously unknown relative, Aunt Philomena Fludd, who he discovers living with a talking dodo named Cornelius. From her he learns that his parents were the latest in a long family line of mapmakers and “beastologists”, people who study animals thought to be mythological or extinct.
Nate is both intrigued and dismayed when his aunt announces that it is past time for him to begin learning the family trade and that they are leaving immediately for Arabia to oversee the birth of a new phoenix, an event that only happens once every 500 years.Although Nate often doubts his ability to “be a real Fludd,”he manages to acquit himself well on the trip, and even acquires a companion, a gremlin by the name of Greasle, when he prevents her from damaging the airplane.
When Aunt Phil is taken prisoner by the Bedouins, it is left to Nate to preside over the phoenix rebirth, and devise a plan to secure her freedom. Nathaniel’s quick wits and resourcefulness save the day, and Nate begins to believe he may have the makings of a beastologist after all.This book will appeal to readers who love fantasy, and exotic settings and a touch of mythology.Hints of missions to come and mysteries to solve leave room for sequels and should 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. 144 pages Ages 8-10
Recommended by Linda Lucke