cover image The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath

The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath

Mark Copeland, . . Houghton, $15 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-618-56302-9

In British author Copeland's charming fantasy of human and insect interaction, 12-year-old narrator Arthur Piper uncovers a shady plot to undermine his grandfather's circus in Edwardian England. Seth, a fly, is the Agent in Advance for Piper's Circus, and his odd behavior prompts Art to dispatch his pet ladybug, Rufus, to spy on the fly. Seth and his brother, Vince, stand to make a tidy bundle by taking bets—but on what Art can't be sure. Copeland's cross-hatch pen-and-inks bring to life such characters as a veteran circus clown and the insect stars of the Big Top, who are the size of domestic animals, but with human abilities and habits. The chapters alternate between the more suspenseful episodes of Rufus trailing the traitorous Seth, and those of Art and his human pal Daisy as they cope with such hazards as loosened tightropes, and try to figure out the significance of the Flying Geminis' breakup (which is tied to the wasp-tamer and the evil wasp Jasper, with whom Seth is consorting). Readers will likely put two and two together before the human protagonists do, but there's much to amuse here. The story ends with an appendix of sorts, "Notes on the Training of Animals for the Circus," ostensibly penned by Art's great-grandfather, which will likely amuse both adults and children, as will Copeland's little gem. Ages 8-12. (July)