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This month I'm reviewing, The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival, Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low, a trim little book but a definite mouthful.
If you follow this blog at all, or even just visit every month for the Book Review Club, you probably know that I, most definitely, judge books by their covers. And this one was no different. I love the uniqueness of this cover, and all the careful little details: the line of buttons on Petronella's skirt, the arch of flies behind her, and the plethora of little bugs tucked into all sorts of places. It had me glancing at it again and again.
This middle grade novel is just the right combination of silly and serious. Set in the spring of 1903, it is a cozy (and innocent) peek into turn-of-the-century England. Two events happen almost simultaneously on the cusp of Petronella Arbuthnot's sixteenth birthday: her Uncle Percival accidentally swallows an exotic beetle, giving him a taste for insects (and nothing else), not to mention an inexplicable spryness, and a London actress and a Panamanian Generalissimo are abducted from her coming-out party (despite not having been invited).
In the interest of averting the embarrassment that would surely result were it to get about that her uncle enjoys consuming insects at every opportunity, Petronella consults with an entomologist and subsequently finds that the fateful beetle (and a strange and colorful species of butterfly that's been fluttering about) hints at the dangerous plot behind the kidnappings. It is up to Petronella to do what she can for Mother England.
The storyline itself is clever, and its humor and quirkiness are the perfect foil for a psuedo-serious mystery. Petronella most definitely has her hands full dealing with her ridiculous relatives, her crazily-cavorting, insect-devouring uncle, the bungling detectives of Scotland Yard, and her ever-so-distracting crush on her best-friend's brother. And she handles everything with aplomb!
Perfectly charming! I look forward to more installments in the adventures of Petronella!