Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Basilisk’s Lair
This is the second book in the Beastologist series, geared for emerging readers, and it’s just as charming as the first. In this new adventure, set in the fall of 1928, young Nathaniel, a Beastologist in training, is faced with challenges he’s none too sure he’ll be able to handle. He has been recruited by his camel-riding Aunt Phil (and provided with his own personal camel) to assist in her dangerous desert missions, but only by watching and learning, or so she says. Although the story is gently told, and therefore appropriate to the readers’ age, suspense and thrills are not lacking, and the pacing is brisk. This time, the mission Aunt Phil and Nathan set out to perform involves saving a Dhughani village from the dreaded Basilisk, king of serpents, whose poisonous gaze spells instant death. But that’s not all, for they are also trying to piece together the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Nate’s parents while protecting the precious Fludd Book of Beasts, of which only copy exists.
Complicating their work is Nathan’s pet gremlin Greasle, who has a taste for engine oil and things mechanical, and often requires a firm hand from Nathan to keep her under control and not munching on things like their boat motor. (This poor misunderstood gremlin is condemned to frequent times out in her master’s backpack!) The clever black-and-white illustrations sprinkled throughout (count the bones at the opening of each chapter) add just enough visual detail to spark young imaginations. This is a series that will entice reluctant readers to try out more challenging words, while a sympathetic connection with Nathan’s plight will hold the attention of more experience readers. A wonderfully entertaining and humorous addition to literature available for 6- to 9-year-old readers.