Title: The Doldrums
Author: Nicholas Gannon
Genre: Young Fiction
Publication Date: 1st December 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars
Archer B. Helmsley has grown up in a house full of oddities and treasures collected by his grandparents, the famous explorers. He knows every nook and cranny. He knows them all too well. After all, ever since his grandparents went missing on an iceberg, his mother barely lets him leave the house.
Archer B. Helmsley longs for adventure. Grand adventures, with parachutes and exotic sunsets and interesting characters. But how can he have an adventure when he can’t leave his house?
It helps that he has friends like Adélaïde L. Belmont, who must have had many adventures since she ended up with a wooden leg. (Perhaps a crocodile ate it. Perhaps not.) And Oliver Glub. Oliver will worry about all the details (so that Archer doesn’t have to).
Archer, Adelaide and Oliver make a plan. A plan to get out of the house, out of their town entirely. It’s a good plan.
Well, it’s not bad, anyway.
But nothing goes quite as they expected.
I FINALLY bought and read this book!!! I have mentioned it twice in my Top Ten Tuesday posts – as a 2015 Release I Forgot to Get (but that is now resolved) and then as one of my Recent TBR Additions (which normally takes forever but did not in this case!)
This book was completely delightful! Not only is it a completely gorgeous story, but the illustrations are just BEAUTIFUL! I am already tapping my foot with impatience for the next book in the series. It didn’t take me long to read at all. Quite a few of the 340 pages are taken up with illustrations, and the writing is really fluid. It’s totally perfect for its age group (and older!).
Archer lives in an AMAZING house – its more natural history museum than family home. He regularly talks to the stuffed animals in his home (and occasionally they talk back!). My favourite moment in the whole book was when Archer ‘stepped into the bathroom, attached the blindfold to the flamingo, and took a bath.‘ The accompanying image is just TOO FUNNY!
Archer’s grandparents were fantastic explorers, but they went missing after an ill-fated expedition onto an Arctic iceberg. His mum uses their disappearance as an excuse to keep Archer safe and sound inside the house – she sees the same insatiable curiosity in her son.
Archer wants some adventure in his life, and so with the help of his best friends (and next-door neighbours) – Oliver and Adélaïde – he is determined to find his grandparents.
Oliver and Adélaïde were absolutely fantastic sidekicks. Oliver is terrified of absolutely everything – though he still manages to climb onto Archer’s balcony from his own rather often….. Adélaïde is a little bit more mysterious – she has recently moved from Paris, and she has a wooden leg. She tells the boys that it was eaten by crocodiles. Archer becomes CONVINCED that she is the perfect companion for his adventure.
The book is structured in three parts – Archer and Adélaïde are the main subjects of Parts I and II respectively, but the third section discusses the children’s journey planning in detail. I was a bit sad that Oliver didn’t get his own section, but he still thrives as a character even without the same amount of backstory!
There are quite a few subplots which slide seamlessly into the story. The evil Mrs. Murkley is not only the children’s neighbour, but she’s their teacher too! Archer tries to scare her off, but that just puts him on the LIST. There is also an overarching mystery which Archer doesn’t quite notice until close to the end, but it is a perfect twist to finish off the story!
I am so pleased I got this book in its hardcover format – it is just so pretty! It makes a great gift for children (9-12 depending on their reading level), and was my overall recommendation for Christmas 2015. Now that I have FINALLY read it in its entirety, I will be recommending it even more. It was even better than I anticipated! (Also, there are no scary bits – adrenaline-inducing, yes; terrifying, no.)
What is your go-to gift book?