________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2016


Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. (A Peter Nimble Adventure).

Jonathan Auxier.
Toronto, ON: Puffin/Penguin Canada, 2016.
445 pp., hardcover, $22.99.
ISBN 978-0-670-06773-2.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Chris Laurie.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reader's Copy.



Bustleburgh, you see, was a city in the midst of a great transformation. For centuries, she had been home to myriad wonders and oddities-creatures and artifacts one might expect to find in fairy tales or nursery rhymes or any number of ballads. In recent years, however the common folk had become leery of this heritage, and they began to suspect that these stranger elements were in some way holding them back from progressing into the modern world. And thus the NO NONSENSE movement was born.

For as long as Sophie could remember, every autumn brought a new vote about what type of 'nonsense' to burn next. First it was fairy fruit. Then it was any object forged by dwarfs. Then it was any object that talked. Then it was alternative medicines and certain baked goods. Then it was (puzzlingly) wind-up toys. Then it was clothes that were too bright or flamboyant. Then it was any good imported from a foreign land. Then it was anything deemed too old-tapestries and paintings and spindles. Now, at last, it was storybooks.

Peter Nimble is back in this delightful sequel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Young Sophie Quire spends her days as a bookmender in her father's bookshop. She has gained the reputation as being the best in the land, a talent inherited from her late mother. While Sophie is utterly content to spend her days amongst books, she and her father live in increasing fear of Inquisitor Prigg, architect of Bustleburgh's NO NONSENSE movement. Prigg believes that storybooks contain nothing but 'nonsense' and that 'nonsense' will prevent the town from progressing into the modern world. To this end, Prigg has established Pyre Day as the day that all the storybooks in Bustleburgh are to be burned. Aghast at the idea of losing these magical windows into other worlds, Sophie has taken to 'rescuing' books that have been tossed into the pyre.

Sophie adjusted her reading lamp and ran her fingers over the title page. Her heart beat faster, thrilling at the prospect of reading a new story – a story that might for a moment transport her beyond the walls of the bookshop to a different world – a world full of bear kings and trickster frogs and wicked trolls and a thousand wonders besides. How she desperately longed to escape into such worlds.

      Unbeknownst to Sophie, she is being followed on today's rescue. No sooner has she arrived back in the bookshop with her latest treasure, than Peter Nimble appears bearing an ancient, dusty book. An extraordinary book unlike any she has seen before.

      Few authors today are as skilled as Auxier at creating vast, utterly fascinating worlds and characters. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard wastes no time grabbing its readers and taking them along with Sophie and Peter as they embark on a search to reunite this dusty book, The Book of Who, with the three other books that complete the set, "The Four Questions". Professor Cake warns them of dark times if Bustleburgh continues destroying storybooks (nonsense) and gives them a glimpse into the dark future: a town with schoolchildren with faces black from soot, "Their expressions were grim and lifeless. 'Their eyes...," [Sophie] said. 'It's like the spark has gone completely out of them.'" They have become the 'Dead Certain', mere, mindless cogs in the wheels of progress.

      As Sophie, Peter and Sir Tode set off to collect the remaining tomes, they encounter exquisitely written characters both benevolent and malevolent. And few can create such enchanting and unique settings as Auxier, from Madame Eldritch's oubliette, to Baron Magpie's menagerie, to the lighthouse at the end of the world. Will our heroes' manage to reunite all four volumes? Will they manage to manoeuvre their way through the fantastical landscapes and escape the clutches of dastardly villains? All signs point to yes, but it's all about the journey, and this one's a rollercoaster.

      Children of all ages will devour this second "Peter Nimble" adventure and may even be inspired to read some of the 'nonsense' that inspired it.

      Jonathan Auxier was raised in Canada and obtained his MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. His book Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was named a BookPage Magazine Best Book of 2011. His next novel, The Night Gardener, was named a Best Book of 2014 by Kirkus, SLJ, Publisher's Weekly, and Quill & Quire, and it won the ILA Children's Book Award and the TD Book Award. He lives in Pittsburgh with his family and their adorable pet umbrella.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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