cover image Castle Gesundheit

Castle Gesundheit

Mark Fearing. Candlewick, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-1412-3

The occupant of the titular Castle Gesundheit is the Baron Von Sneeze, and both are aptly named: the locals in the adjacent village of Handkerchief “had put up with the Baron’s snuffling, wheezing, and coughing day and night for as long as they could remember.” Fed up with the racket, a redheaded girl called Fiona gets inside the castle and finds that the Baron is a benevolent, lonely fellow with a castle full of cats but no humans. She also helps him realize that his respiratory woes are caused by an allergy to the hundreds of felines that share his home (“But the Von Sneezes have always had cats!” he protests, pointing to the family’s feline-festooned heraldry). Happily ever after—with a few final hitches—is achieved when Fiona comes up with an inventive swap. Fearing’s (the Middle School Bites series) broadly comic digital cartooning takes off quickly as it introduces readers to a town where everyone comically covers their ears with all manner of objects, while boldfaced typographic interjections of the Baron’s congestion—“SNIFFLE SNUFFLE SNORK”—punctuate the scenes. But the book really hits its stride when the action moves to the castle, where bright-hued art keenly conveys the Baron’s plethora of furry, emphatically free-range friends (and his unending kitty-related chores). Ages 3–7. Agent: Sean McCarthy, Sean McCarthy Literary. (Nov.)