by Barry Wolverton
Walden Pond Press
Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, whose jagged cliffs and ice-gouged rocks are home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. Puffin. With their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns-few, save for Lockley's two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp tongued hummingbird.
But all of this is about to change, Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, is dealing with a famine on the mainland of Tytonia-and he has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink's independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it-unless Lockley can do something about it. (Back of the book. ARC)
Neversink is the kind of book you read and once you get into it, you forget you're reading about talking animals as what's happening could apply to a foreign country or our country in the past or just about anywhere. I fell in love with Egbert the Walrus, the only one on Neversink, who really sort of started the trouble in the first place, but only out of the interest in educating everyone (including the owls on Tytonia) how to read and write. You see he'd created the first book....well it's rather a long story and I don't want to sound like a Walrus who according to the Prologue tend to be lengthy in their stories. (Don't any of you comment about the length of my reviews! I am not a Walrus!) Suffice it to say that the Auks and the Owls had already had a war-The Cod Wars and the Auks had been moved to Neversink on which the Owls were never to set foot. However, Egbert's invitation to his birthday party to taste Lucy Puffin's fish smidgens extended to the owls, was a sort of loophole. And, since there was some dissension going on over on Tytonia with the Owls, a few came-The Roundhats-called that because they wore derby hats. Egbert's big announcement about his book was overshadowed by the fact that the Roundhats, while detesting raw fish, found Lucy Puffin's fish smidgens very tasty and flew off with the lot of them back to Tytonia for the rest of the Owl to taste.
The dissension going on Tytonia was that disease was spreading through the animals that the Owls preyed upon and they would need another food source. That's where the fish smidgen's came in. But, there was that Pesky Treaty of Yore that said the Owls would leave the Auks alone and the Great Grey Owl King was determined to stick to it. But when the greedy Rozbell comes into power, that treaty is thrown out along with Parliament and Rozbell basically becomes a dictator putting a fish tax on everything the Auks collect claiming 1/3 of them as fish smidgens. Unfortunately, pregnant Lucy Puffin is the only one that can make fish smidgen's so she's the only one truly affected by this. The Auks just go along with the tax. This is where the story gets really interesting. You see, Lucy and her husband, Lockley haven't had the best luck with their eggs in the past few years. No offspring so far. They are particularly protective this time. Lockley isn't going to let anything to happen to Lucy and the egg when she births it. But things get complicated when Lockley decides to stand up to Rozbell in defense of his wife. Problem is, Auks usually just kind of take things as they come and don't stand up for themselves so he doesn't get any help. And then Lockley disappears leaving Lucy defenseless. Except for a rather large Walrus with a heart of gold and a rather hyperactive hummingbird named Ruby.
I could go on and tell you the story, but I have to stop there. Why should you read this story? For kids, it's a great lesson about blindly following orders and how to stand up for yourself even if everyone else is following along. It's about how one voice can make a difference. It's also got mythology in it. Forgiveness. And what real friendship is all about. And it's all done through talking animals with a really creative story. Bits of humor are strung throughout even during dangerous times. And, there is always hope and faith. You don't have to read anything into it or you can read into it for a deeper meaning. In either case, it's an enchanting story that held my 12 yr old and myself spellbound until the tear inducing ending. The illustrations are amazing! I didn't think black and white pictures could show such emotion, but looking in Lucy Puffin's eyes I almost cried. I did later