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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Order of Odd-Fish* by James Kennedy- young adult book review  
The Order of Odd-Fish
by James Kennedy
Grades 7+ 416 pages Delacorte August 2008 Hardcover    

If someone were to come up to you and say, “My, what an odd-fish you are!” before you thiought to yourself, “How rude that person was!” you should consider it to be a compliment. At least belonging to the Order of Odd-Fish, as the heroine Jo Underwood eventually does in The Order of Odd-Fish by author James Kennedy, is a great honor indeed.

Sure, the main occupation of the knights - compiling an appendix of disreputable and disputed facts for an encyclopedia which has yet to be even begun - is a very, very silly thing to do, but in the world on which Eldritch City is, wasting time in creative ways is an art form (some would say a science), and the more “dithering” done in the attempt to compile questionable “facts”, the greater a knight of the Order of Odd-Fish is considered to be.

Eldritch City is a unique and fantastical place with talking three-foot-tall cockroach butlers, centipedes that are journalists, and flying armored ostriches which are the steeds of the knights. In our own world, where we first are introduced to Jo, some of the craziness of Eldritch City has somehow spread out.

There’s a man called the Belgian Prankster (who once was the knight known as Sir Niles, mistakenly believed by the inhabitants of Eldritch City to be dead) who has his own television show and who - among his many pranks - has filled the Grand Canyon with pudding, turned the Eiffel Tower upside-down, and rearranged the stars over New Mexico into the shape of his face.

You’ve got to have a certain love of bizarre, twisted, irreverent humor to really get into reading The Order of Odd-Fish. Fortunately for me, I do have this love, and did enjoy reading the novel very much. It reminded me a lot of the books of Roald Dahl, like James and the Giant Peach (to my reckoning, anyway, a very good thing). There’s some Monty Python-ish zaniness thrown in (Some? Scratch that; a lot - also commendable), as in when the cockroach butlers at one point make Jo wear a hat they call “the Hat of Honor.”

You may wonder aloud, “What is the plot?” And: “Does it match or excel the brilliant level of humor in this fine, exuberant novel?” And then you may query the people staring at you because you’re talking out loud, “Why are you staring at me? Can’t a fellow express an interest in literature without being gawked at?” Or, maybe not, as the case may be...

Before her adventures in Eldritch City, thirteen-year-old Jo and her Aunt Lily Larouche live “somewhere near Dust Creek” in the desert, in a “ruby palace.” Aunt Lily is an eccentric elderly ex-movie actress who is raising Jo because Jo’s parents are dead (another Roald Dahl-like, and fairy tale-like, element of the tale). Jo works in a diner as a waitress. At the start of the book it’s Christmastime, and Aunt Lily’s annual Christmas party - unusual in many ways - kicks things off. Colonel Korsakov, a Russian who expresses knowledge of Jo and Aunt Lily (though they have no memory of him) and his cockroach butler, Sefino, crash the party. Korsakov states:
“I have come to bring Jo a gift. And I have come to protect her.”
That’s when the mysterious black box falls out of the sky, the box Jo later learns is an invention called an Inconvenience. It sets a series of events in motion that are very “inconveniencing”, not only to Jo and her aunt, but also to Colonel Korsakov, Sefino, and everyone who lives in Eldritch City. When Jo was born and her Aunt Lily followed the sound of her crying into her laundry room to find the baby “there, inside the washing machine,” Lily also discovers a note saying:
This is Jo. Please take care of her.
But beware.
This is a DANGEROUS baby.
How can a mere baby be “DANGEROUS”? Suffice it to say, she is considered to be dangerous because her birth appears to fulfill a prophesied creature called the Ichthalla which will eventually bring about the end of the world. If the inhabitants of Eldritch City were to learn that Jo, who they thought was Lily’s squire, was the Ichthalla, they would likely turn against her and try to kill her.

Is Jo really the Ichthalla, destined to bring about the end of the world? She doesn’t know but fears that she is, and that somehow the Belgian Prankster (Sir Nils) will trigger her transformation into the monstrous Ichthalla and that all will be lost.

If you’re looking for a wonderful fantasy-filled book full of zany characters and situations, you can’t go wrong checking out The Order of Odd-Fish. Highly recommended.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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