Reviews /

Odelia and the Varmint

Authored by Jenny Moore
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Published by New Frontier Publishing

Odelia and the Varmint is a swashbuckling tale of a young girl’s adventure with the pirates who have escaped from the pages of her author mother’s novel.

Set in Victorian London, Odelia’s family are struggling financially and emotionally after the sudden death of her father in the previous year left them penniless. As their old life disappears, and in an effort to support her children, Odelia’s mother spends her time writing an adventure story for a critical publisher who has so far rejected her work, while Odelia makes sure the family are able to survive on a daily diet of toast (the only thing she can cook). Much to their surprise, the villain of the story, pirate Captain Blunderfuss, appears in the house one day, along with the ship’s cook and Dog, the oddly named ship’s cat. As the family adjust to having these unexpected guests, Odelia sees an opportunity to join the pirates in a search for the treasure she believes her father hid in the family home prior to his death. During their search, Odelia learns that varmints, villains and heroes may not always be as easily identified as they first appear.

The book is split into 24 short chapters, with character illustrations and brief biographies provided at the beginning. There is a lot of discussion about use of language as Captain Blunferfuss continually mis-uses terms which Odelia has to translate to make sense, for example when he promotes her to ship’s basin (bosun) and his regular cry of ‘Ankles away!’ (anchors). Throughout the text there are detailed descriptions that highlight the family’s poverty and feelings of grief at the loss of the father, as well as the London setting and characters met along the way. The challenging themes are dealt with candidly, balanced by the fantastical and comedic events that beset the main character.

This is a book for 9+ which would work well as a class reader or as an addition to the library. It presents several opportunities for discussion, particularly due to the word play used throughout for comic effect, the historical and geographical detail, and the challenging themes tackled.