A Tale Magnolious

368p. Knopf. Jun. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781984831743.
Gr 5 Up—The whimsical tale of an orphan and elephant who, together, bring hope and change to a town in dire need of wonder. It all begins when 10-year-old orphan Nitty steals a pouch of unusual glowing green seeds. Moments later, Nitty makes a split-second decision to free Magnolious, an ex-circus elephant about to be executed for allegedly killing her trainer. Together, Nitty and "Mag" escape to Fortune's Bluff, a town on the edge of destruction due to intense and unceasing dust storms. There, they help a curmudgeonly farmer bring life back to his barren fields and team up with new friends to unravel the mystery surrounding the town's dust storms. Though comparisons to Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan are inevitable, this novel merits praise in its own right. Nelson effortlessly weaves together the historical context of the Dust Bowl with elements of fantasy and adventure to create a wholly original setting. While readers will empathize with Nitty and Mag, who have each experienced hurt and loneliness at the hands of those who are meant to care for them, it is the eccentric troupe of supporting characters who stand out: Twitch, the endearing novice detective whose habitual wheeze usually blows his cover; Ferdinand, the dejected mustache-maker who believes in the life-changing power of refined facial hair; and Neezeer Snollygost, the ravenous and untrustworthy town mayor with a whistling nose.
VERDICT Readers will be delighted by this effervescent story full of adventure, heart, and a dash of magic.

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