Title: The Wonderling
Author: Mira Bartók
Illustrator: Mira Bartók
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older children/middle grade fiction, fantasy
Book format: Hardback
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Description: Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, run by the evil Miss carbuncle, a cunning villainess, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer.
For the Wonderling, an innocent one-eared “groundling” – a mix of fox and boy – the Home is all he has ever known.  But when unexpected courage leads him to protect a young bird groundling, Trinket, from being bullied, she in return gives him two incredible gifts: a real name – Arthur, like the good king in the old stories – and a best friend.
With the help of an ingenious invention by Trinket, the two friends escape from the Home and embark on an extraordinary quest into the wider world and down the path of Arthur’s true destiny.
With its shimmering language and richly imagined plot, The Wonderling is a spellbinding adventure that will leave readers with a head full of wonder and a heart full of song.

*Free copy prvided by publisher for review…

Review:   This is such a beautiful and magical tale, it’s the perfect story to read no matter how old you are. ‘The Wonderling’ follows the story of Number Thirteen, a very shy one eared half-fox half-human boy who lives at Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. The orphanage is an unpleasant place, there is no space for the young groundlings (the half-animal half-humans) to have fun, and poor Number Thirteen is so shy and alone that he doesn’t have any friends or even a proper name. But one day he’s forced to do something brave, an act that begins his journey to his destiny.

The book is quite large for a children’s book, at around 460 pages for the hardback, and contains some beautiful old-fashioned looking illustrations throughout. The hardback I have has an outer sleeve covering an old fashioned style dark green book (beautifully bound), and the sleeve has some beautiful images (like the ones found inside) along with some lovely shiny copper embellishments which can’t be seen easily from the above picture. The book is separated into three parts with each part being given a brief description along with some illustrations. There is also a lovely map at the start of the book which all together gives this book such an old-fashioned and beautiful feel.

The Wonderling book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

The story is so easy to get into and I was enjoying it from the very first page. There is a real adventure feel to this as well as a magical Dickensian vibe. The story is set in the Victorian age, given the way the characters look and the technology they have, but it is firmly a fantasy world where groundlings exist. Number Thirteen, or Arthur as he is later known is such a sweet character, very timid but also with a heart of gold. It was so easy to like him straight away and like many magical children’s stories I think kids will warm to his character straight away. As the story progresses chapters occasionally switch to different characters. The whole story is written in the third person but you sometimes find out what is happening elsewhere in the story. This switch is never confusing and is often very interesting as sometimes characters are not just described by their names but in a more outward way, such as one scene talking about what two birds are doing in a house, mentioning them as birds rather than using character names. It gives the book a very magical feel and an almost movie quality to each scene.

A lot happens in the story and I really don’t want to spoil it by explaining as it’s really a magical adventure that Arthur and his friend go on. But I will say that this book really kept me reading on and on and it sucked me into this magical world that is so beautifully imagined. The Victorian style world where groundlings exist as well as some magical and powerful creatures is just amazing. The pictures really add to this magic too. All of the pages have some beautiful embellishment, even text only pages have some decoration around the page numbers, and when there is an illustration it wraps beautifully around the text. The pictures have a slight brown/sepia tint to them, with a hint of orange being used in pictures of Number Thirteen. The illustrations are really beautiful, you have to see them to see the beauty. They really enhance some of the images you create in your mind when reading the book and I can’t help but feeling a twinge in my heart when I see a picture of the little fox groundling or of his friend who I can’t help think looks like a very cute Kiwi bird.

The ending of the story is satisfying and it feels like the perfect tale to read at Christmas, as the date is significant in the story (although this really can be read at any other time of year too!). I feel like I’ve been on a magical journey after reading this book and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was one day turned into a magical movie as it’s just so wonderful a read. I would recommend this to anyone of any age. Of course it is aimed at older children but I doubt anyone older, who enjoys magical fantasy stories (especially ones featuring animals) would be able to resist enjoying this book!

What do you think of this book?  Do you like magical fantasy stories?  What about tales with animal characters?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂