Orca. Sept. 2019. 240p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781459821637.
Gr 4-7–In 1799 France, young Odette has grown accustomed to caring for her mother, Anneline, who is prone to accidentally killing people. Moving to Nevers is no different; Odette finds them lodging and food and secures a job as a midwife’s assistant while her mother worries about her past. Odette befriends the midwife’s son Nicois, and together they uncover a mystery involving the strange inhabitants of the town and their connection to Odette. The citizens of Nevers include Anne the donkey, who brays in Latin every night; Mme. Genevive, the mysterious inventor; M. Gustave, the landlord who wishes to be a chicken; and M. Manis, who has a fascination with smelling hands. The story is told by an omniscient narrator, adding to the fairy-tale feel. Readers will enjoy the quirky characters and be pleasantly surprised by the twist ending. There are gay and intersex characters in the town of Nevers. It is also notable that Odette and Nicois form a close friendship that does not become romantic, but rather familial. While the pacing is quick, the story never feels rushed.
VERDICT A worthy addition to middle grade collections; give this to fans of Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale.

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