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Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Larklight Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6-10–This wildly imaginative sci-fi pirate adventure has tongue-in-cheek humor and social commentary on accepting those who are different, among other things. Art Mumby and his sister, Myrtle, proud citizens of the British Empire, which in 1851 includes extraterrestrial territories, live with their father in Larklight, a rambling house that just happens to be traveling through outer space. The arrival of elephant-sized white spiders sets in motion an adventure that takes the quibbling siblings across the universe to battle the forces of evil. The spiders, the First Ones, want the key to Larklight in order to destroy the Empire and rule again. Art and Myrtle, thinking their father dead in the spiders' webs, escape their home, only to be rescued by the notorious space pirate Jack Havock. His ship sails the lunar sea with its crew, including Ssilissa, a human-sized blue lizard, and a gigantic land crab named Nipper. Art is the narrator, but when he and his sister are separated, readers are treated to Myrtle's prim and proper diary entries. With the help of Jack and his merry band, good triumphs, the family is reunited, and Myrtle and Jack begin a romance. Reeve's cinematic prose describes his fantastic universe while also conveying a Victorian sensibility. Whimsical, detailed black-and-white illustrations enhance the text. Readers will eagerly suspend disbelief; they will be riveted by the exciting plot's twists and turns as our heroes face death-defying adventures and narrow escapes, all at a frenetic pace. As Art would declare, Huzzah!–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Arthur (Art) and Myrtle Mumby's space-fantasy adventure begins at Larklight, an ancient structure that orbits Earth. Attacked one day in 1851 by spiderlike creatures, they escape, only to be marooned on the moon, where they are captured by a moth and encased in jars containing voracious larvae. Freed by a band of extraterrestrial pirates led by young human Jack Havock, they fall into many wild adventures and encounter a mad scientist helping the spider creatures destroy life in the solar system. Robots, aliens, famous explorers, and hoverhogs also play a role in this rollicking heroic romp, which resonates with Victorian England's mores. Reflecting Victorian custom, chapter subheads are long and descriptive, with Wyatt's amazingly detailed illustrations furthering the effect. Both the story line and the language demonstrate Reeve's respect for his readership. Kids can look forward to more adventures, though narrator Arthur is off to "have a nice buttered muffin and a cup of tea" first. Diana Herald
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1170L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; First Edition edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599900203
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599900209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Space. It's so done, isn't it? Nine times out of ten the stories that take place in outer space are just metaphors for cowboys anyway. Star Wars. Star Trek. Firefly. Some work better than others, but the idea of a sci-fi space-based children's book would, under normal circumstances, do nothing to lift the rate of my pulse. Obviously this must have occurred to author Philip Reeve as well. Best known until now for his The Hungry City Chronicles, Reeve turns his sights on his nation's dirty past. But what if that dirty past were transposed into the outer regions of space? A space where breathing in zero gravity isn't really a problem, there are aliens galore, and the British figured out how to conquer the universe when Isaac Newton figured out space travel? Suddenly things are looking a lot more interesting.

Living on a lonely little home floating not too far from their beloved Earth, young Art Mumby and his older sister Myrtle have only known Larklight as their home. After their mother disappeared a couple years ago, however, their father has become increasingly lost in his own private world. That all changes when suddenly when, without warning, Larklight and its denizens (robot servants and otherwise) are attacked by giant, vicious spiders. Art and Myrtle barely escape with their lives and in doing so come in direct contact with the infamous space pirate Jack Havock (approximate age: 14). It appears that there was always more to Larklight than met the eye, and when the siblings are split apart they must individually find a way to defeat a nefarious villain, save the British empire, and recover the ones they love.
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Format: Hardcover
When eleven-year-old Art Mumby finds out that a visitor is arriving at his run-down home, Larklight, which floats in space beyond the moon, he hardly expects to be thrust into a frightening adventure of pirates, plates, and a millenium-long conflict upon which the fate of the solar system rests. He tells the story of this adventure in LARKLIGHT (occasionally giving his older sister, Myrtle, a chance to narrate via her diary), and the story is nothing if not fantastic.

Philip Reeve (author of the Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles)) has created another fascinating world in LARKLIGHT. Art lives in the Victorian society of the 1800's--or rather, what Victorian society would have looked like if they'd developed space travel, and astronomy worked according to early speculations about aether (an air-like substance in space that people can move and breathe in), and interplanetary beings (Venus, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter are all home to a variety of life forms). Reeve cuts no corners, painting the cities and citizens of the solar system in dazzling detail. The setting is a gorgeous mix of fantasy and science fiction, and fans of both genres will find much to enjoy.

If the world wasn't exciting enough on its own, the adventure is of the edge-of-your-seat variety. Art and Myrtle tumble from one tense situation to another with alarming frequency. Most chapters end on cliffhangers, so be prepared to have trouble finding a place to pause. Reeve throws in enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing right until the end, and both Art and Myrtle get the chance to play hero.
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Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book. It seemed like exactly the kind of thing I've been waiting for without realizing it. But it fell short for me. For some reason I just couldn't get into it. I can't put my finger on it, but I never really got very involved, and I didn't really find myself looking forward to continuing it each day. The only parts that were compelling to me were Myrtle's diary chapters. Perhaps that's the thing, that the rest of the writing felt too detached, like I was watching it from afar instead of feeling involved.

The two biggest problems I had were as follows:

1) The character of Myrtle was too annoying for too long. I knew that the idea was that she'd redeem herself, but there was nothing endearing about her that made me want anything other than for her to just disappear from the story all together. Later in the book her diary pages were good, but that was because they mostly dropped the annoying aspects of her character.

2) I didn't find the spiders to be even remotely plausible. That's a problem since they're what the whole story is about. Yes, I know this is a wild fantasy, but even within the reality of the book they didn't feel right to me.

I'm giving the book 4 stars though because I do believe that its target audience will enjoy it more than I did (I'm not a kid). It's not a bad book, it's just that, well, as my review title says, it could have been better. The retro-future Victorian sci-fi world was a lot of fun and hopefully future installments will keep all of the good elements from this book and improve on the less stellar ones (no pun intended). At least in the next book Myrtle (theoretically) won't be so annoying.

Almost forgot: some of the little inside jokes were fun, such as the interpolation of a bit of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds."
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