cover image The Barnabus Project

The Barnabus Project

Terry, Eric, and Devin Fan. Tundra, $18.99 (72p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6326-0

The Perfect Pet store’s friendly window display offers adorable fuzzy animals, “Genetically Engineered!” But in a laboratory deep underneath it, the Failed Projects are imprisoned: small, fuzzy cast-offs with names like Quirt and Moshi. Diminutive Barnabus—half mouse, half elephant—is inspired by Pip the cockroach’s descriptions of the world outside: “mountains that reached all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars.” After the group is slated for recycling, Barnabus leads his fellow Failed Projects out through the ventilation system (the subterranean depths are revealed in all their steampunk glory), pausing to liberate one last being before, in a chilling moment, coming face-to-face with the perfected version of himself: “It was almost like looking in a mirror, except Barnaby’s eyes were bigger, and his fur was like cotton candy.” The idealized Barnaby may be perfect, Barnabus realizes (“Fully trained!” declares the box)—but he is not free. A cinematic climax caps this romp as Terry and Eric Fan (Ocean Meets Sky), collaborating with their brother Devin, step out from earlier, atmospheric works to produce an ambitious drama of rebellion, escape, and inclusivity rewarded. Barnabus and his comrades win readers over, and the plot provides thumping moments of danger before delivering its allies to a collaborative future. Ages 5–9. [em]Agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency. (Sept.) [/em]