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*The Undrowned Child* by Michelle Lovric - middle grades book review
The Undrowned Child
by Michelle Lovric
Ages 10-14 464 pages Delacorte August 2011 Hardcover    

Set in Venice, Italy, in the summer of 1899, The Undrowned Child is a historical fantasy targeted at intermediate and middle school students who truly enjoy suspending their disbelief and entering into a magical world.

The story centers on eleven-year-old Teodora (Teo), who is staying in Venice with her parents who are both scientists. They have been called from their home in Naples to help solve the mysterious problems besetting Venice: illnesses, changes to the water, sharks in the canals, etc.

Early in the story, Teo is injured by a falling book in an old book store. As compensation, the owner gives Teo a book – The Key to the Secret City. She is the only one who notices that the picture on the cover of the book moves and communicates.

Teo is hurt much worse than originally thought. She is admitted to the hospital and mysteriously disappears during the night. She has become a ghost, of sorts “between the linings.” Although she is hungry and can move around, none of the adults she encounters can see her.

She meets a boy named Renzo, and together they follow the directions in The Key to the Secret City to a kingdom of mermaids. The mermaids are fighting the growing evil masterminded by Bajamonte Tiepolo, a historical figure who has come back to life and desires to destroy Venice.

Meanwhile, Venice continues to suffer. While the mayor tries to convince the public that all is well, children are dying, the water level is rising, and someone named Signor Rioba is distributing handbills warning people of the growing danger all around. Working together, Teo, Renzo, the mermaids and others must overcome the menace which grows stronger each day and is devastating Venice.

Overflowing with historical references to real Venetian places, people and historical events, The Undrowned Child offers plenty of action and intrigue in the time span of just a couple of weeks. With mythical beings coming alive, detailed descriptions of places, characters and events, and magic springing from a book, avid readers will make connections with other fantasies.

Give this one to readers who enjoy Michal Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series or Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy. The book concludes with a factual account of places and things which you can still see in Venice. A companion novel is scheduled to be released in 2012. Recommended.
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  Kristine Wildner/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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