The Curse of Eelgrass Bog

Penguin/Razorbill. Jan. 2024. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593624906.
Gr 4-7–Twelve-year-old Kess Pedrock’s older brother Oliver has given up on the upkeep of the Unnatural History Museum, but not Kess. She is determined that her parents will return from their research trip in Antarctica to a well-maintained museum. This task is proving to be nearly impossible with the museum falling apart around her, plus she hasn’t discovered any new monster exhibits to lure patrons. Until she has an interesting visitor, Lilou Starling. Kess feels an instant kinship with Lilou and visits her at home where she lives with her two dads. It turns out Lilou’s grandpa left her an old map of Eelgrass Bog with specific instructions: “Beware the witches. Break the curse. Save the society.” Kess has been warned to stay away from the bog, but the lure of solving Lilou’s mystery is too strong. Foreshadowing is strong as Kess has murky memories of her past. Delightful characters abound, such as Shrunken Jim, a talking demon’s head in a pickle jar (brine included). Setting details are equally eccentric; the girls discover a strange house that appears at the mouth of the Drowned World tunnel with eight iron legs and crouching “like a mechanical spider.” Readers will be anxious to follow where this mystery leads. Lilou and Kess’s relationship deepens to genuinely liking one another. Characters read as white.
VERDICT A fetching, heart-stopping read with quirky characters, over-the-top depictions, a sinister setting, and the deep roots of family love.

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