Once in awhile a gorgeous children’s book comes along that you just know is going to be a tour-de-force of sumptuous, old-fashioned and involving storytelling…and Mira Bartok’s The Wonderling is that book.
It is an epic romp across a strange yet familiar Victorian steam-punk land, and at its heart is a one-eared fox “groundling” (which is a word used to describe all kinds of part-animal, part-human beasts in this story) called Arthur. Arthur – or number 13 as he is anonymously known for such a long time – lives in a terrible, depressing home for misbegotten creatures where the devilish, authoritarian Miss Carbunkle rules with an iron fist.
Arthur and his fellow inmates are Carbunkle’s slave labour – helping her build horrible machines that she wants to unleash on the world to suck every single song or piece of music or joyful sound from it.
But, luckily, Arthur’s brave little bird friend, Trinket, has an escape plan. And, through a lot of mistakes and adventures, the two escape to the strange city of Lumentown where Arthur falls into a life of accidental crime at the same time as desperately searching for the family he lost years ago when he got put in the orphanage for creatures.
There are magical birds, fascinating characters, wonderful landscapes, heartwarming creatures and beautifully described areas such as of the dirty, forgotten “city under the city” that Mira’s effortless prose places you in.