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Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Doldrums, by Nicholas Gannon. Greenwillow, Harper. 2015. $21.99 ages 8 and up

"Mrs. Murkley shook her head. "This place is far worse that I thought," she said. "I've seen tree stumps with greater cognition." She folded her arms and tapped her foot while waiting for Charlie to say something, but it's awfully difficult to think once your thoughts have been hard-boiled. All Charlie managed was, "Never mind." Mrs. Murkley grinned. "Very good," she chirped. "I sense improvement ... "

Eccentric and adventurous is this story of the young Archer Helmsley and his two friends, Oliver and Adelaide. Archer lives in the shadow of his grandparents who are famous explorers and, at the time of this story, lost to those who love them on an Antarctic iceberg. They have not been in contact for two years; there is concern that they will never be found.

Archer and his parents live in his grandparents' house. It is filled to the brim with objects and treasures gathered from the senior Archers' many trips and explorations. Some are stuffed animals that Archer finds good company, talking to them when his loneliness is overwhelming. His mother is terribly overprotective, fearing that Archer has inherited his grandparents' proclivity for travel and adventure. She confines him to the house and school. Little does she know!

Archer is determined to set a plan in motion for finding his beloved grandparents and bringing them home. He enlists the help of two neighbors. Oliver Glub is wary of anything that makes him uncomfortable and most things do. Adelaide seems to have no fear, explaining to the boys that her wooden leg is the result of a tangle with a crocodile. After all the planning and early forays into trying to set events in motion, their plan is scuttled. Archer must await a further chance to rescue his grandparents. Luckily, a plan is the last thing he will need.

Tons of fun, with the author's accompanying detailed illustrations, this book is sure to appeal to those who love their adventure and reading a bit cock-eyed. There is humor, entertaining wordplay and elegance in the author's artwork. It's a great debut about family and friendship from a talented writer. I hope it won't be long until we see his second book.


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