Friday, August 03, 2007

One Beastly Beast

Well known for his Keys to the Kingdom series and other fantasy novels, One Beastly Beast, by Garth Nix, is a collection of four short stories. As advertised in the subtitle, Two Aliens, Three Inventors, Four Fantastic Tales, Nix entices readers with a rapscallion band pirates, a princess, an inventor, and a vegetarian sea serpent; interspersed with aliens, monsters, and elements of magic.

In Blackbread the Pirate, Pete’s innocuous trip to the video store becomes a supernatural adventure when his overdue DVDs are hijacked by a cutthroat band of pirate rats. Reluctant to explain how the booty was lost, Pete agrees to be transformed to a rat-sized boy. He joins the navy fighting Blackbread, becomes their champion righting evil wrongs, and returns home in the nick of time.

The second tale, Princess and the Beastly Beast, features Princess Chlorinda, the daughter of a wizard King and warrior Queen. Prone to exaggeration, her pet pig is the beastly beast in question, Princess Chlorinda yearns for grand adventure. Her wish is granted not by trolls or werewolves living in the kingdom, but by a clockwork monster that swallows her whole!

All in one piece, but found in a banana peel and living in a home for lost children is Bill the Inventor. Mrs. O'Squealin tries to find the right parents for each child, but Bill is proving to be difficult. He does not want to join a band of pirates or be turned into an alien and taken to another planet. He does not want to be adopted by a wizard King and Queen, unable to spend time on his inventions. With luck, a final interesting human family will fit just right.

Being right is not a problem in the last story, Serena and the Sea Serpent. One of sixteen girls in a family, Serena is the smartest person in her town. Always right, her propensity to be a bit of a know-it-all grates on the townspeople's nerves. When a sea serpent begins terrorizing their town and Serena offers to talk to the serpent, it seems to be a blessing in disguise for those tired of her meddlesome ways. Serena's solution to the problem provides her with a unique vacation opportunity and ultimately solves a serpents hunger pangs.

Quirky pen and ink drawings by illustrator Brian Biggs add just the right touch providing strong visual elements to each character’s personality and enhancing individual stories. Definitely a title for younger readers, this is an ideal title for fans of fantasy and chapter books.

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