Malamander: Legends of Eerie-on-Sea, Book 1

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Malamander:  Legends of Eerie-on-Sea, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Delightfully spooky fantasy-series start has charm, chills.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Most people have lost something. Sometimes it's a loved one, sometimes it's a precious object. Looking for what you've lost or taking care of things other people have lost or discarded can lead to new discoveries that may not be what you expected to find but that make searching worthwhile.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Narrator Herbie, who's 12, is a good role model for empathy, loyalty, and responsibility. He takes his job seriously and carefully looks after and keeps track of lost-and-found items because he knows what it's like to lose something important. Even though he's scared and would rather proceed cautiously, he won't let his friend face possible dangers alone. Violet, also about 12, is a positive representation for girls, especially those with dark skin. She's brave, determined, and very intrepid. She won't stop searching and asking until she finds answers. The villain is easy to identify, thinks he's better than everyone else, and doesn't care who he tramples over to get what he wants.

Violence & Scariness

The villain punches a child in the face, the child kicks the villain. A scary monster attacks with a venomous bite and bites off a hand. A child is grabbed by the collar and thrown aside but lands unharmed. An animal friend attacks someone's face and is thrown aside, hits something, and collapses without moving; there's a safe resolution. Pain from broken glass and a bandage pink with blood are mentioned. Fantasy violence includes attacks from a monster and another fantasy creature that don't cause permanent damage. The villain harpoons a child with a safe resolution. He also shoots multiple harpoons into the monster. Suspense from main characters frequently in danger from fantasy creatures, the real-life villain, drowning, and being chases. A few illustrations show scary fantasy creatures and a man in the grasp of many giant tentacles.

Language

"Turd," "poo," "damned," and "hell."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thomas Taylor's Malamander: Legends of Eerie-on-Sea, Book 1 is the first book in a planned fantasy series aimed at middle-grade readers. There's lots of suspense and scariness from heroes in danger from both real-world and fantasy creatures. Blood is mentioned a few times but not described in detail, the villain punches a child in the face, shoots harpoons at a child and a fantasy creature, and throws a cat into a shelf and knocks it out. A few illustrations show scary fantasy creatures, and one shows a man being held by giant tentacles. The story explores themes of loss, of both people and things. Herbie is a foundling so has never had a family, and Violet's parents are missing and presumed dead. Both heroes are good role models, and dark-skinned girls with curly hair will especially enjoy seeing a strong heroine who looks like them. Strong language includes one instance each of "damned" and "hell," and some potty talk involving fossilized dinosaur "turd" and "poo."

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What's the story?

It's said that the MALAMANDER has been haunting the tiny town of Eerie-on-Sea for generations. But when orphaned Violet Parma climbs through his window and asks Herbie Lemon to hide her, little does Herbie imagine how dangerously close his new friend will bring him to the terrifying legend. Along the way they'll have to get around the imperious Lady Kracken, the mysterious Sebastian Eels, a glowing crystal egg, Boat Hook Man, and more. And to think it all starts with a code typed out by a mermonkey automaton.

Is it any good?

This delightfully spooky fantasy series opener for big kids and tweens drips with charm and chills, thanks to sprinklings of magic, humor, and mystery along with a dash of steampunk. Malamander is populated with colorful, quirky characters led by the clever and intrepid duo of 12-year-olds, Herbie and Violet. The plot moves along at a brisk pace with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Author Thomas Taylor's entertaining use of language, especially when it comes to people and place names; his sly sense of humor; and chapters with cliffhanger endings make it a great choice to read aloud. Sprinkled throughout are vivid illustrations that bring the story to life.

Neither Herbie nor Violet has parents, and themes of loss are explored with sensitivity but not too deeply. Other themes include friendship, trust, and the joys and dangers of discovery. The story wraps up nicely while leaving plenty of room for more to come. Kids who can handle a scare or two will enjoy the action, adventure, magic, and mystery along the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence and scariness in Malamander. When is it sometimes fun to be a little bit scared? What can you do to feel better when you're scared?

  • Would you like to read the next book in the series when it comes out? What do you think it will be about?

  • What are some of your favorite fantasy series? How does this book compare?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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