Walker. Sept. 2019. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536207224.
Gr 5-7–In the beach town of Eerie-on-Sea, “twelvish” orphan Herbert Lemon is the Lost-and-Founder at the old Grand Nautilus hotel. When, one winter night, Violet Parma drops through the cellar window, on the run from sinister forces and determined to find her parents who disappeared from the hotel when she was a baby, a friendship and an adventure begin. Their madcap search, with bold Violet spurring on reluctant Herbie, takes them to the Eerie Book Dispensary where an automaton—half-monkey, half-merman—provides book “prescriptions”; Mrs. Fossil’s Flotsamporium where mysterious beachcomber findings are on offer; Dr. Thalassi’s natural history museum; and sea mist–shrouded trips to the waterfront where an old shipwreck and a menacing sea creature, the eponymous malamander, lurk and threaten. Readers will be drawn in immediately by Herbie’s chatty second-person voice. The fast-paced narrative includes subtle humor, clever plays on words, and rich cinematic details augmented by black-and-white illustrations and a map. Colorful characters, palpable atmosphere, close calls and some deliberately unanswered questions (how did little Herbie get washed up onshore in a lemon crate, and just what did happen to Violet’s parents when they took a rowboat out to sea to find her?) will hook readers on this new British series and leave them eager for more.
VERDICT A crowd-pleasing fantasy

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