With her debut novel for young readers, award-winning memoirist Mira Bartók creates a classic, Dickensian-style adventure story populated with endearing characters, a steampunk atmosphere and an enduring message of hope.
For the Wonderling, a meek, one-eared fox boy, life has always been hard. Without a name, family or history to his knowledge, he is called by a number, Thirteen, and sent to Miss Carbunkle’s Home, where he toils miserably with the rest of the part-animal, part-human “groundlings.” The boy’s life is a lonely one, until one day, fate and courage combine to bring him his first friend in the form of a precocious bird groundling named Trinket. The two bond quickly, and Trinket bestows upon the boy a priceless gift: his own proper name. She dubs him Arthur, after the brave king. But little does Arthur know how soon his own bravery will be put to the test, as he and Trinket plan their escape from the Home and journey toward the great city of Lumentown in the hope of finding answers about Arthur’s origins.
This novel joins riotous exploits with heartfelt wisdom. The palpable grime and callousness of the city, as well as the rag-tag band of merry thieves that Arthur finds there, hearken back to Victorian-era adventure stories, giving the narrative a timeless feel. But the most notable element of this story is the pervading message of hope—that no matter how dark the world may seem, there is always light to be found, whether it be in friendship, in the simple sounds of nature or in the countless other small wonders around us.