January 11, 2016
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
by Nicholas Gannon
Archer B Helmsley has grown up in a home that many people would mistake for a museum full of tribal masks, artifacts of all kinds, and a wide variety of taxidermied animals from a polar bear to an ostrich. From floor to floor and wall to wall, it has been filled with items his grandparents, a well-known pair of explorers, collected on their journeys.
Archer has all of this but what he doesn’t have are adventures. The problem is that his mother sees his imagination and identifies it as a tendency far too like those of his grandparents. When they disappear on an iceberg while exploring the Antarctic, Archer’s freedom is strictly curtailed. No longer allowed outside, he leaves the house only to go to school. How is he supposed to find friends and adventure like that?
Fortunately adventure finds him when a classmate careens right into Archer. It turns out that Oliver and Archer are next-door neighbors and soon the two boys strike up a friendship, using a series of ladders, and a few jumps, to travel from one house to another without being detected by Archer’s mother (his father isn’t in on it but he is very observant).
Soon the two friends become three when they befriend the new girl in the neighborhood. Adelaide has a wooden leg and tells her classmates that she was attacked by a crocodile which is much more exciting than the truth that a bakery truck hit a lamp-post that fell into Adelaide who used to be a ballerina. The boys, mostly Archer, reason that the survivor of a crocodile attack is just the person you want a long on an adventure and soon the friends are cooking up a plan to reach Antarctica and rescue Archer’s grandparents.
I’m not going to reveal anything more about the plot but suffice it to say that things do NOT go as planned. The result is more than a bit slap stick and really hilarious if you know 12 year olds. “But it went really well” stated loudly and often as the dust settles.
This one was a bit of a slow start but as I got deeper into it, I understood why. This is a book about dreamers and their friends. Thus the pace is dreamy and relaxed. The characters, especially the secondary characters, reminded me a bit of those in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The illustrations that Gannon has created for the book aren’t sepia prints but somehow have a similar “old-time” feel.
Pick this one up for young the dreamer in your life.