cover image Oddity


Eli Brown, illus. by Karin Rytter. Walker US, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0851-1

In an alternate 1822, the uneasy peace between America, the French-controlled Louisiana Territory, and the fictional Sehanna Confederation (inspired, a note clarifies, by the Haudenosaunee Confed-eracy) is on the verge of collapse. The U.S. military searches for oddities, strange and powerful objects and entities, a handful of which stalemated the Louisiana War 20 years prior. Just before bandits kill teenage Clover’s Russian country-doctor father in pursuit of one such item, he entrusts it to her with instructions to find a famed scholar of oddities in a distant city. Brown (Cinnamon & Gunpowder, for adults), making his children’s debut, writes a weird world filled with vividly depicted characters. Ruthless bandits contest with Clover and her allies—a “living oddity” known as the “Cockerel Colonel” and resilient Nessa Applewhite Branagan, a traveling cure-all tonic saleswoman—for control of a cache of oddities that could win the war or further ignite it. Carefully constructed settings, such as such as an intoxicating marsh derived from an endlessly refilling wine cup and the oddities at the tale’s center—a perpetually freezing ice hook, time-stopping matches—mix the mundane and the impossible, driving a memorable adventure studded with light historical references and Rytter’s woodcut-style illustrations. Ages 10–14. [em]Author’s agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Mar.) [/em]