Friday, July 24, 2015
Recommended Reading: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.
Peter Nimble is an earlier work from the author of The Night Gardener, which we enthusiastically recommended at the beginning of the year. Peter Nimble isn't quite that good, but it's still a lot of fun. The Night Gardener is middle-grade horror, with more focused themes and more overall success as a story, while Peter Nimble is a fantasy that relies on quirky characters and worldbuilding.
The tone is light and not-quite-realistic, hearkening back to some favorite middle-grade books like The Phantom Tollbooth, but the actual content is a little more mature with lots of character deaths and injuries. The narrator has a Lemony Snicket sort of style where not everything he says in his asides can be trusted, but the target age range for this book may not understand that -- the narrator talks about how apes can go months without drinking water and have a hump to store water in, for instance. An older child would know this is tongue-in-cheek, but a younger child who's used to those kinds of educational asides might just take it at face value.
Either way, Peter Nimble is a fun read for middle graders. It's got wacky characters like the cat-horse-knight Sir Tode, and a huge talking dogfish named Frederick. It's got enough action and jokes to keep things moving, but is also complex enough for older kids who want more of a challenge!