- Publisher: HoughtonMifflin (June 30, 2010)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00VSCG1HA
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
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[ Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone: The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival By Low, Dene ( Author ) Paperback 2010 ] Paperback – June 30, 2010
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Title: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone( The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival) <>Binding: Paperback <>Author: DeneLow <>Publisher: HoughtonMifflin
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On the surface, this is your basic Victorian mystery. At young Petronella's birthday, two nobles are kidnapped and Petronella finds herself in the middle of the situation.
Then, one looks at the delightful oddities of the story. First and foremost, her guardian Uncle Augustus has contracted a rare condition that compells him to eat insects. While this is extreme, other members of Petronella's family are hardly typical, either. Then there is Petronella's best friend Jane whose brother is the object of Petronella's affections (it's great romantic attrocity all the way through). Then there is Petronella's small-but-fervant concern with grammar that lends itself almost a "Series of Unfortunate Events" air without the extreme zaniness.
All these oddities and entanglements are in a direct contrast to Petronella's desire for Victorian propriety, of course. It's a hoot.
I truly enjoyed this book. It's very well-written and extremely creative. I just think it should be read by those that can appreciate it.
My favorite parts of the book were actually the secondary characters, especially Petronella's uncle (the Augustus T. Percival in the title). I liked the plot, too, especially once the wackiness started taking over and made things more interesting. I laughed, I sighed, I had some fun. The language seemed spot-on, though I'm no expert on Edwardian speech, and I was surprisingly fascinated with the clothing described within.
Although I enjoyed some parts very much, unfortunately the parts I didn't like outnumbered the parts I did. I didn't really like Petronella, since she seems too obsessed with her love interest and being respectable. That makes for some funny scenes, but it also makes for a slightly boring character, especially compared with the interesting, unusual characters she's surrounded with. Her personality didn't seem to mesh with what other characters said about her: that she was a mischievous troublemaker who knew how to have fun and went out and had it. The new "adult" Petronella seemed entirely too bland to have actually done any of the interesting things she was supposed to have done, though she does become more vibrant near the climax of the plot (i.e. where she actually saves nearly everyone).
Because Petronalla was so bland, the strangeness of the events around her were not so much left of center as completely off the map. I don't know if that makes the weirdness better or worse- but I do know that the strange bits were also the most exciting, and Petronella's drabness dragged the book down. Sometimes it rose above, but mostly I was just confused re:how I was supposed to feel about Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone. On the one hand, it's funny and unusual and really cute. On the other hand, it's kinda boring and the tone is all over the place.
Overall, I liked Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone. It has some problems, but it wasn't bad and I'll for sure read the sequels (two of them in progress, according to Ms. Low's website!). And I'll for sure try out Ms. Low's other books, as well, which look just as quirky and potentially adorkable. I just probably won't, uh, buy them. BUT, do try it out if you think it has potential. You'll probably like it better than I did.
I was delighted to find that the book had much more substance and wit than I had dared to hope. It is a turn of the 20th century historical fiction/mystery set in England. The humor was delightfully witty, and reminded me of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster. I could definitely picture Bertram Wooster being a friend of Petronella or James, and Jeeves being a colleague of her buttler Moriarty.
Several others have done spectacular jobs of summarizing the plot of the story, so I won't bother to repeat that here. I will just add that as an SAT Prep teacher, I loved how many of the difficult SAT vocabulary words Low managed to use in the story. I will be recommendeding this book to my SAT Prep students. That said, I don't know how it got slated with the ages 9-12 reading level?! More like grades 9-12+. Much of the humor would probably be lost on the younger grades. I will be recommending it to high schoolers and adults. I hope Amazon.com catches on soon that this is not a picture book, as the current further reading recommendations suggest. I would love to see it recommended to those who like P. G. Wodehouse or Philip Reeve's Larklight.