By Michelle Lovric
$17.99, ages 10 and up, 448 pages
Get ready for cries of lackaday, as Venice's most reviled traitor returns from the ocean deeps and tries to crush the city once and for all, in this wildly imaginative companion to The Undrowned Child.
Once again it's up to Teodora the "Undrowned Child" of an ancient Venetian prophesy, her best friend Renzo "the Studious Son," and a band of pirate-talking mermaids to outsmart traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo, an assassinated noble.
This time, however, Bajamonte may be too formidable to stop, as he conjures up blood-sucking sea creatures, allies with two unscrupulous exiles and an army of ghost convicts, and expands his terror to England.
A year ago in a fierce battle on Venice's Lagoon, Teo had cursed Bajamonte back to death. But as he was sucked into a giant whirlpool, Bajamonte whimpered for mercy and Teo couldn't get herself to utter the final spell that would have destroyed him forever.
As a result, Bajamonte was merely cast off until a time when he could summon enough evil magic to strike again. To regain his power, he must resurrect himself in human form, and to do that, he must gather up his bones, now scattered in underwater graves.
In the chilling first chapter of Book 2, The Mourning Emporium
, Teo stands at the edge of Venice's ice-strangled Lagoon on Christmas Day 1899, glimpses something underwater and screams. A vampire eel. It can only mean one thing. Bajamonte is back and he has begun his attack on Venice once more.
The night before on Christmas Eve, waves of ice washed over Venice's seawalls and pulled people out of their beds to their death. Among those drowned, Renzo's mother, and countless children whose bodies were never recovered. Yet it wasn't until Teo saw the eel that she realized this was no act of nature.
Then in a nightmare, Teo's sees foreboding images and her fears are confirmed. She knows the worst is yet to come. In the dream, a bat-shaped shadow (Bajamonte's ghost form) flies over the Lagoon as a ghost-ship with cobweb sails scoops up drowning souls in nets. Then a giant squid swallows children and Venice sinks under a hundred feet of ice.
Soon Teo learns that her adoptive parents, two marine biologists, have been kidnapped and an eerie illness, the half-dead disease, has begun to reduce Venetians into mumbling shadows of themselves. In addition, Venice's great paintings are vanishing -- as if the city itself were being erased from history -- and a magical book that helps them save Venice has disappeared.
Racked with regret for having not killed Bajamonte when she had the chance, Teo rushes to the mermaids in the House of Spirits for answers. The mermaids tell her that Renzo's been taken to a floating orphanage, the Scilla, and as Teo dashes off to join him, she's kidnapped and lashed to an iceberg with vampire eels inside. Though she eventually escapes to the Scilla, her reunion with Renzo is cut short when an evil English beauty, Miss Uish, commandeers the boat and forces the orphans to commit piracy.
News from shore is just as grim. Members of the Incogniti, a secret society that guards against evil magic, are being framed or worse, and now word has come that Queen Victoria in England is on her death bed and treacherous things are afoot there. England's good sea creatures, the Melusine and Sea-Bishops who aided in the last battle against Bajamonte, have been massacred in the River Thames and the Venetian mermaids say their London sisters have fallen into a sad and languid state.
In addition, word has it that Harold Hoskins, an exiled cousin of the queen, may be conniving to take over England after her death. Years ago the queen cast Hoskins off to Australia to run a penal colony on the island of Hooroo and he has simmered with hate and revenge since.
As England's woes mount, they reek more and more of the same baddened magic that's haunting Venice: ice is crusting over the Thames River, Harrod's Department Store has been raided of mutton jelly and ghostly street vendors have been wiping door knobs with a strange syrup. But if this the work of the evil traitor, then where has Bajamonte gone to? Is the coward ever going to show his face?
Now it's up to Teo, Renzo and the salty-talking mermaids to show up the mangy traitor and rescue his victims, but first it'll take a mutiny at sea and a visit to the bad ship Bombazine to figure out his sinister plan.
Along the way, they'll have to enlist a ragtag band of allies. Among them, London street urchins who eke out a living as professional mourners (the Mansion Dolorous Gang), a talking bulldog that would do anything for his "kiddies" (all the forsaken children he comes upon), orphan mutineers in an invisible ship, an uppity tabby with wings and pumpkin-selling spies from Venice.
Together they'll confront a hemophiliac spy, build an ark for overweight animals, and lob fishskin balls across a deck, and Teo will once more go Between-the-Linings to become invisible and use her magical gifts. Among them, her ability to see a person's handwriting written above their heads (and therefore a bit of their soul) and memorize whole books (so she can retrieve spells or maps for later).
Once more, author Michelle Lovric packs so many colorful details into her book that I imagine her fingers racing across computer keys to keep up with the pace of her imagination. She writes like a great Victorian novelist, with a winking sense of humor and such vivid, whimsical characters that you may wish you could cavort with them too.
You definitely have to be up for the fantastic, but the tale is dazzling and Lovric's dialogue, infectious. In fact, I found myself looking for a reason to talk like her salty-tongued mermaids, and let out a "lackaday" or mutter, "grits and gristle." This a series that's whisked me away and left me wishing if only it could be real. So I could pop in for a salty sea ride or get all blustery with the mermaids.
Written by Michelle Lovric
$17.99, ages 9-12, 464 pages
When a magical book falls onto Teo's head, the 11-year-old orphan is thrust on a quest to save Venice from a vengeful ghost and his band of mutilated spirits, in this imaginative, brilliant debut.
Teo, who has lived in Naples as long as she can remember, has always yearned to go to Venice and now her adoptive parents have finally invited her to go as they research a troubling presence in the city of canals.
One day, while exploring the city, Teo wanders into an old bookstore and is knocked to the floor when a tome called, "The Key to the Secret City," tumbles off a shelf.
Just before Teo is taken to the hospital, the bookseller slips her the book. When she awakens in her hospital room, she discovers the book is still with her, and there's a menacing wooden statue near her bed.
The statue, put there by some mysterious force haunting the city, is bleeding from its mouth and seems to be coming to life. Suddenly, Teo loses consciousness and disappears.
She awakens in a graveyard with the tome still in her pinafore, and as she tries to find her way back to her parents' hotel room, she discovers she's become invisible, except it seems, to children.
As she walks, the book speaks to her, writing words of warning across the pages, including a strange poem about an undrowned child, and soon, the book leads her to a Gondola boy named Renzo.
Teo and Renzo are told by the book that they are Venice's protectors and are led to The House of Spirits, a refuge for aging nuns and heartbroken ghosts, then under the sea to a colony of mermaids.
The mermaids are nothing like those in children's books; they speak like pirates and act like revolutionaries, running an underground press to warn the city of an impending evil.
0 Comments on 7. The Undrowned Child as of 1/1/1900
Because they are my passion--always have been, always will be. From the earliest days of being read to by my father (Rudyard Kipling's White Seal and The Elephant's Child were top favourites as were Peter Rabbit--the first 'proper' book I ever read by myself--and the tales of Orlando the Marmalade Cat), to the present day (discovering new wonders all the time, the latest being Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Peter Dickinson's The Ropemaker and Angel Isle, plus the anticipatory future pleasure of reading a long list of others including Michelle Lovric's Undrowned Child), I have found almost my every reading need covered within the canon of children's literature. (Of course I read a wide-ranging variety of 'adult' literary genres too, and take great pleasure in much of it--I am currently immersed in the three volumes of Lyttleton/Hart-Davis Letters--a nostalgic journey into a long ago world of publishing and academia.) But if some wizard waved a wand and said 'Begone' to every book written for those over 18, then I would not be unhappy to find only children's books in my library. There is an honesty and a directness about a really well-written children's book which cuts straight to the heart of things without messing about. For me, being a writer in this field is the best job in the world. While wrestling with words and plots and recalcitrant characters (and often days on end where inspiration fails) is hard work mentally--and sometimes physically--I wouldn't and couldn't dream of doing anything else, ever. When a story comes out just right, it is a kind of satisfaction second to none (until a second reading, when, inevitably, the next round of 'fiddling about' kicks in--for me a story is never really finished, even when the editor has to physically rip it out of my hands and send it to the printer!).
Thus, feeling as I do, it was a huge pleasure last Friday to join in with our fantastic blog birthday party (and if you haven't visited, please go back and take a look--it's still not too late to enter the great book giveaway competition
and sign the guestbook). The chance to celebrate, talk and read about children's books here with like-minded people from fellow authors to agents, publishers, reviewers and readers has indeed been An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. I've learned a lot over the last year. Happy Birthday once again, ABBA, and thanks for introducing me to the blogsphere! Long may you flourish, and long may we all go on celebrating children's books together.
We’re always talking about how much the READER loves to suspend disbelief, and about the READER’S craving to indulge in escapism.
But what about the WRITER’S own, deeply selfish motives for escaping the brash, brutal modern quotidian?
Here are seven candid reasons why I like to set my books in the past.
In the 18th century and early 19th century,
1. TRAVEL. One’s characters can gallop about on horseback or be thrown into fascinating company in post-carriages. Or proceed in gondolas with cabins curtained for mischief. Mobile phones do not ring on trains, and nor do attention-deficient businessmen while away long journeys braying the same inanities to ten colleagues, one after another. One’s characters can credibly leave babies in handbags on platforms, unchided, for there are no station security announcements. There is no Gatwick Airport, that cheerless sump of the imagination and of hope. In Venice, you can walk down the street without bumping into a 30-strong tour group with a guide shouting historical inaccuracies into a megaphone.
2. FOOD. There is no McDonalds. There is no nouvelle cuisine. No supermarkets with their ghastly corpse-light. No Finest, Taste the Difference or Everyday labelling on the food: it is visibly good, bad or maggotty. One’s characters can attend, even give sumptuous dinner parties. (And writing a dinner party beats shopping, cooking and cleaning up after a real one – in fact, beats it raw, dips it in egg and rolls it in sage-sprinkled sourdough breadcrumbs and fries it in extra-virgin oil made from olives picked by blind nuns in the shadow of an ancient convent).
3. WATER. One’s characters can go to the well for water, which also allows them hear all the gossip and simultaneously contract a dangerous disease with compelling symptoms. Thames Water did not exist, and nor did their automated dialling system for reporting a burst water main in your street: the one that keeps you holding on indefinitely, without ever speaking to a human being.
4. HEAT. Building regs did not disallow flues for open fires in listed buildings. There was no mains power to cut off. EDF did not exist, and nor did their Customer Service Department have a list of picturesque but conflicting mendacities to recite: Thames Water cut through your pipes/ Our engineers have not yet been assigned a time to attend due to the overwhelming demand/ the wire that is needed to fix the situation is on a truck that is snowbound in Yorkshire/ we had to send our engineers home because of Health and Safety – It is too cold for them to work. (‘What about the Health and Safety of your CLIENTS?’ One bleats, pathetically, nursing the elderly cat who is already wheezing with the cold, after 22 hours without power. But EDF Customer Services is trained in Obfuscation and Mendacity, not Irony.)
5. WORDS. One’s characters can talk in sentences. They know the subtle joy of the semi-colon. They can say, ‘Whereupon I mentioned the very salient fact that …’ instead of ‘I’m, like …’ Or ‘Are not the noble EDF engineers equipped with warm vestments so that these grand fellows may verily execute their appropriate labours in the service of your esteemed clients?’ instead of ‘What the …?’
6. WHAT TO WEAR. One may dispense with the dismal inevitability of thermal underwear, bobble hats jeans and crass designer labels instead indulging in Swiss spotted dimity, tarlatan, salmon-pink surah, crepe, poplin, batiste, pique and lawn, not to mention mousseline-de-laine, organdie, voile, gauze, jaconet and pompadour sateen.
7. (LEGAL) DRUGS. Instead of today’s brutal stuff, gruffly named and garishly packaged, you have the whole lovely lexicon of quack medicine to work with. Such as, Dr Worden’s Water for Weak Women, Dr Bowder’s Compound Syrup of Indian Turnip and Dr Wynkoop’s Katharismic Honduras, The Original Widow Welch’s Female Pills, Vogeler’s Curative Compound, Irristum, Fitch’s Kidney and
Members of the Scattered Authors Society are performing at Edinburgh this coming week. Do come along if you can, or forward this to friends in the north …
On Saturday 21st August,
1pm, Mary Hoffman will talking about the latest volume in her best-selling Stravaganza series – City of Ships
2pm, Nicola Morgan will be explaining how to make publishers say ‘yes’.
7pm, Michelle Lovric will present her novel The Book of Human Skin and be discussing ways to write about Venice with Katie Hickman.
And on Friday 27th August, Gillian Philip will be launching her new novel, Firebrand.
Details of tickets and venues can be found on the Festival website