NATHANIEL FLUDD, BEASTOLOGIST: FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX by R. L. LaFevers and Kelly Murphy
If you’ve got a young reader who likes fantasy animals and Indiana Jones movies, R. L. LaFevers has got a series that reader is going to fall in love with. Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, debuts with Flight of the Phoenix and continues for at least two more books. Nate loses his parents, who were never there because they were always circulating the globe while he was growing up, and gets immediately shipped off to his strange Aunt Phil, who proves to be the wildest and most adventurous person he’s ever met. And that’s just in Chapter 1!
I loved this book. Flight of the Phoenix has everything I want in a young reader book (figure 3-6 grade for optimum age range). Nathaniel Fludd is an engaging hero that promises plenty of pluck and lots of humor because he doesn’t quite know the world he’s been suddenly drafted into after the death by misadventure of his two globe-hopping and absentee parents.
I also love Aunt Phil and the talking Dodo that runs her somewhat disorganized and cluttered house simply jam-packed with interesting artifacts. The book is set in the 1920s, but that really isn’t a problem for kids that don’t know the history. However, the light doses of history add zest and flavor to the pell-mell pacing. LaFevers doesn’t mess around once she gets her story underway.
Batting-at-the-Flies, the name of the town where Aunt Phil lives, is a place that I hope Nate gets to do some exploring in during future volumes. I can hardly wait to see what the town is like and what the townspeople think of Aunt Phil.
The sequence where Phil has to spin the prop on the two-seater bi-plane is a hoot and made me immediately think of those Indiana Jones movies I loved so much. Then later, when there’s something wrong with the engine and Aunt Phil directed him to walk out on the wing to fix the engine, I was worried and laughing my butt off at the same time. The illustrator, Kelly Murphy, outdid herself on this scene. However, I think the flight time to Arabia was fabricated because it would have taken much longer with that plane. I just remembered to check my adult self and continued being ten years old as I read the story.
Kelly Murphy’s illustrations show up throughout the book. They’re weird, whacky, and wonderful, and the book just wouldn’t be the same without them. I love the way Nate looks, as well as Aunt Phil and the Dodo, and Murphy draws a reader-friendly world that’s rife with imagination waiting to explode. Can’t wait to see her future books in the series.
The way LaFevers presents her world is awesome. I enjoyed how she mentioned “Tidy Sums” (the inheritance the nanny got, then promptly departed and left Nate cold), and the other archaic terms she used that spiced up the story without being potentially confusing to young readers. The author has an elegant touch for invoking the past without losing her present-day audience.
This is one of those books to give to curious youngsters willing to forage for entertainment on their own. But it’s also a great book to read aloud to kids that might still struggle with reading, or just for when you want to spend a family night together.