Action and adventure are the name of the game in The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, the first book of a new series featuring a squad of anthropomorphized nocturnal animals: Dawn the calm, resilient fox; Tobin the good-natured pangolin; and Bismarck, the French-speaking, know-it-all sugar glider.
This unusual trio decides to band together as the Nocturnal Brigade after suddenly being forced to scare off a menacing black snake. Soon they are joined by other animals―bats, a jerboa, coyotes, kiwis, a wombat and more―to investigate an even bigger problem: the mysterious disappearance of a variety of animals.
Adding to the exploits are the animals’ many personalities, as they navigate both their allegiances and natural suspicions of one another. “It is most confusing!” the ever-loquacious Bismarck proclaims. “Muy befuddling! Absolument absurd!”
Eventually, the group finds itself drawn deeper into the dizzying dangers lurking in a vast underground cave, where a crowd of crocodiles holds the missing animals hostage. The big finish involves a high-stakes (and creative) hockey-like game that pits the Nocturnals against the Crocs, led by a menacing reptile named Boris. The Nocturnals are literally playing for their lives, and by the end of the game, the seemingly evil Boris proclaims, “What a thrilling turn of events! My heart can’t handle it! My cold blood is boiling!”
Tracey Hecht’s first novel is an appealing page-turner for middle-school readers, combining a likable cadre of unusual animal characters with fast-paced, clever dialogue and, of course, plenty of suspense.