Odo Hirsch, , illus. by Andrew McLean. . Bloomsbury, $14.95 (175pp) ISBN 978-1-58234-797-4

Be careful of what you wish for and what is required to get it—is only one of the lessons covered in Hirsch's (author of the Antonio S. series) charming fantasy about the perils of desire. Legendary "mouth-watering melidrops" grow in the young Queen's empire, faraway in the south in a time when refrigeration, air travel and electricity have yet to be invented. "The Queen had tasted every fruit that grew in her seven countries, every single fruit except the melidrop." After hearing about the delicious fruit that must be eaten the day it is picked, nothing else will do. Laced with humor, the novel, told by an omniscient narrator, deposits little gems along the way (when the Queen pretends the melidrop does not exist, for instance, the narrative advises, "When you try to pretend something doesn't exist, you end up spending more time thinking about it than you ever did before"). Sutton Prufrock, ancient world traveler and expert on melidrops, suggests that it will take "Inventiveness, Desperation and Perseverance" to locate a melidrop for her Royal Highness and bring it back while it is still fresh. The explorer extraordinaire Bartlett is the man for the job—if she can wait seven months. The merits of honesty and resourcefulness waft through this lighthearted adventure tale. Even the Queen herself learns a lesson she doesn't bargain for as she waits for the melidrop to be procured—the importance of patience and trust. Ages 8-14. (Jan.)