Thursday, August 11, 2011

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Auxier, Jonathan. 2011. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. New York: Amulet.

(Advance Reader Copy provided by the publisher and signed in New Orleans by the young, very friendly, and tall Jonathan Auxier. Some lucky young reader will be the recipient of this great new book!)

A sightless, orphan boy under the control of a heartless man, the Dickensian Peter Nimble uses his remarkable senses to survive, becoming as unseen as he is sightless - a master of thievery, lock picking, diversion, filching, clipping and pilfering.  It is a mean and demeaning life until the day he steals an elaborately guarded, locked and fortified box containing three sets of eyes - eyes which catapult him into a strange and fantastic journey to the spaces that have heretofore been left blank upon the maps of the world.  His destiny is a quest for the Vanished Kingdom. To accomplish his mission, he has only his new companion, the part feline/part equine/part human Sir Tode (a most miserably enchanted knight), an unfinished riddle, his burgle-sack, and of course, the Fantastic Eyes.

The language of Peter Nimble is the straightforward language of action and adventure, which is not to say that this book is simple or unsophisticated. In fact, the plot has many twists with depth equal to the cruel mines of the Vanished Kingdom. There is some obvious foreshadowing, but this may be a planned device, offering the reader a sense of accomplishment while following this exciting adventure as it changes perspective when new characters enter and expand the story.

As Peter Nimble is blind, the reader depends upon the narrator and good Sir Tode to set the visual scene. Peter's view of the world is colored, so to speak, by his other senses.  He tells the time of day by the "feel" of the sun or moon.  He can "smell the dew percolating up from the ground."  He can judge the size of a chamber or hall by the echo of voices or machinery. But he cannot do it all alone, and enlists the help of the loyal Sir Tode, a fish, thieves, a raven, and "the Princess," in a fierce battle to aid the author of the riddle,
Kings aplenty, princes few,
The ravens scattered and seas withdrew.
Only a stranger may bring relief,
But darkness will reign, unless he's --
For ages 10 and up, readers of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes can expect some violence and even death (no quest is without danger!), but Peter and his allies are up to the challenge, and when they falter, they are reminded,
There are times when Justice demands from us more than we would give.
A satisfying and captivating debut novel that certainly leaves open the possibility of future adventures. (Read more about that in this BookPage interview with author, Jonathan Auxier.) A treat for fans of action, adventure, magic and fantasy!

(I love the cover art!)
True story: I have never encountered the word sternutation before reading Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. After looking it up, I shared my discovery with my family that evening only to have my son tell me that he, too, had learned the word sternutation that day - from a Snapple cap!  A strange coincidence to be sure!

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