I feel a little bit like this book was made just for me.
Everything about it is perfectly lovely: the title, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, gorgeous cover and Kelly Canby's wonderful illustrations throughout the book, each encompass the distinctive whimsy of the story. I love children's adventure stories, especially when they're set in magical lands. Plus it is written by Jaclyn Moriarty, who is one of my favourite authors.
So I was very excited when I first heard about Bronte Mettlestone. I actually had a copy sitting on my desk at work for about a month before it was released but it was for a prize so I was very restrained and didn't touch it. Instead, I went to the launch at Mosman library, ate delicious food inspired by Bronte's adventures and listened to the Moriarty sisters be very sisterly and tell great stories about each other.
I wanted to savour my reading of this book, then life and work so busy pre-Christmas that I ended up just thinking about how I wished I was reading it. I finally made it to holiday time, and with a brief plane ride and with a little night-time reading, it was already over.
Bronte Mettlestone's parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She's had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons - and no adventures, thank you very much.
Bronte's perfectly pleasant childhood is disrupted by a telegram informing them that her parents have been killed by pirates. This doesn't particularly bother Bronte, she assures you, as she didn't really know them. It does, however, greatly inconvenience her. Their will clearly sets out detailed instructions, which must be followed or there will be dire consequences. In order for the will to be satisfied Bronte must travel alone to visit all ten of her other aunts in various towns, kingdoms and oceans, delivering gifts from her parents. Gifts in hand, and strict instructions to write to Aunt Isabelle from every location, Bronte sets off on her inconvenient adventure.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is wonderful for many reasons. Fun, magical and full of laughter, the story is deeply funny. It's also a sweet, utterly brilliant and complex story. The illustrations are stunning and a great addition.
One of the many things I admire about Jaclyn Moriarty's writing is her skill in maintaining a very consistent tone throughout each of her story, while still writing a large cast of characters with individual and developed voices. The characters throughout this book - aunts, uncles, cousins and friends - are all fabulous and fascinating. The the overlapping interactions and relationships between the aunts and cousins and Bronte is one of my favourite parts of the story.
Bronte is ten years old at the time of her adventure, however, she is twelve when she narrates the story which gives it a layer of reflection while still being fully from a child's perspective. I like that the narrative style never dismisses or talks down, and manages to reveal more complexity than Bronte realises at the time without being patronising. In particular, this worked really well for showing Bronte working through her feelings about her parents as well as her developing awareness of adults as individuals. I thought it dealt with Bronte's emotions really well.
The plot is quite simple, following Bronte's journey to see her aunts, however, along the way the story subtly grows into much more than a sequence of visits. The magical, fantastical elements were great: fully explained without being too explainy. The whimsy of the world Bronte travels in contrasts well with her matter-of-fact sensible-ness and practical approach to her adventure.
This book is perfect for middle grade readers. It's perfect for everyone and anyone and most especially it's perfect for me.