N. E. Bode & Peter Ferguson
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto
ust the other day I was lamenting the lack of contemporary young adult fantasies narrated by the author. Imagine my delight when I picked up
to find N. E. Bode (actually Julianna Baggott) doing just that! I always feel that this style, popular among Victorian and Edwardian children's fantasy writers, creates an air of magic drawing the reader into the experience. How can you not feel the author is telling the story specifically for you when they use the word
? Maybe I feel so strongly about the
of writing because the first chapter books I ever read on my own were A. A. Milne's
The House at Pooh Corner
which are written like this. If you feel the same way I do, you are going to love
. If you have no clue what kind of writing style I am talking about, you need to experience N. E. Bode.
ern is a girl who feels that something is not quite right about her life. Weird things have happened throughout her childhood, such as crickets popping out of a picture book, snowflakes turning into letters, and a tree changing into a nun changing into a lamppost (her boring parents, the Drudgers, have always dismissed these incidents as Fern's unfortunate imagination.) So it does not really surprise Fern when a strange man appears on her doorstep one night claiming to be her real father and returning the Drudgers' son to them (it seems the two were switched at birth by a very befuddled nurse). So begins a summer that Fern will never forget. It turns out that her mother was a great '
' who hid her secret manual, '
The Art of Being Anybody
', right before she died giving birth to Fern. (An '
' can transform himself or herself into any person, animal, or thing.) Her real father, '
', knows that Fern is essential to finding his wife's hidden book and that Fern probably has the same powers that her mother had. Unfortunately, dad's nemesis, '
', knows this too, and will stop at nothing to find out the secret first.
nother magical thing about this book is its myriad of literary references. As Fern learns to use her powers, she shakes more than crickets out of books. She encounters such characters as E. B. White's Templeton from
and Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit from
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
. Also, the author takes time out to compare Fern to young heroes and heroines like Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter from C. S. Lewis's
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
and James from Roald Dahl's
James and the Giant Peach
. Accompanied by Peter Ferguson's whimsical illustrations, N. E. Bode's
is a magical fantasy, sure to appeal to children's literature lovers of all ages.
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