Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publishing Date: September 29
Genre: middle grade, historical fiction
Archer B. Helmsley has grown up in a house full of oddities and treasures collected by his grandparents, the famous explorers. He knows every nook and cranny. He knows them all too well. After all, ever since his grandparents went missing on an iceberg, his mother barely lets him leave the house.
Archer B. Helmsley longs for adventure. Grand adventures, with parachutes and exotic sunsets and interesting characters. But how can he have an adventure when he can’t leave his house?
It helps that he has friends like Adélaïde L. Belmont, who must have had many adventures since she ended up with a wooden leg. (Perhaps a crocodile ate it. Perhaps not.) And Oliver Glub. Oliver will worry about all the details (so that Archer doesn’t have to).
And so Archer, Adélaïde, and Oliver make a plan. A plan to get out of the house, out of their town entirely. It’s a good plan.
Well, it’s not bad, anyway.
But nothing goes quite as they expect.
Archer B. Helmsley is the grandson of the great explorers Ralph and Rachel Helmsley. His home is filled with treasures from their adventures across the world — to the dismay of Mrs. Helmsley — and people across the country frequent the house to examine the collection. Archer longs for an adventure, too, but after his grandparents go missing, his mother cracks down and refuses to let Archer leave the house other than to attend school. Enter Oliver Glub and Adélaïde L. Belmont, neighbors who are willing to join Archer in his grand schemes. But great adventures come at great costs, and the three friends will stop at nothing to believe in the impossible.
What an absolutely stunning debut! Gannon wrote a fantastical, whimsical middle grade novel that’s both refreshing and cozily familiar all at once. I’d lump it in historical fiction, partly for the technology mentioned and partly for the stunning artwork. Oh, right — Gannon is the illustrator as well, and I loved all the pieces! This ARC was in black-and-white and several pages contained ART TK messages, so I can’t wait to see what the finished copy looks like (and in color)!
The language was so lush but the writing continued in that middle grade mindset: the lovely mix of stream-of-consciousness and jumping narrative. Each chapter is subdivided into scenes and moments, from Archer’s point of view to Oliver’s to Adélaïde’s to a secondary character’s. Not once did it feel jarring. Everything…worked.
My favorite bits of the story were the library request cards, the newspaper clippings, and letters. Incorporating these outside elements to a story make it feel more fun and — of course — adventurous! It adds to that timeless feel. I’ve no doubt The Doldrums will become a classic children’s book. Truly. I can’t tell you much more because it will ruin the magic!
Thank you, Greenwillow Books and HarperCollins, for providing this book at BEA for review!
This book fulfills 3 of 7 #ARCAugust reads.