Confession: I actually loved about a million things in Jaclyn’s middle grade novel but, much like bears, musketeers and singing brothers in Hanson, good things come in threes.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is about a ten-year-old girl who is sent on a solo adventure, via the instructions in her parents’ will, to deliver gifts to her ten aunts. She faces many obstacles along the way, including pirates, police and magical creatures, but if she doesn’t follow her parents’ precise orders, terrible events will occur.
Bronte was already my hero from this description alone, because I’m pretty sure the biggest adventure I ever went on as a ten-year-old was taking the shortcut through the cemetery near our house to get to the shops (the promise of an ice-cream won out over ghost possession). But this leads into my first thing I loved about the book: Bronte is a fabulous main character.
Bronte’s full of kindness, wit and wry observations. She’s clever, empathetic and while she’s a wise soul in a lot of ways, she’s also given free rein to just be ten and feel the emotions that fuel your mind at that age. I was Bronte’s cheerleader all throughout her adventures. I really enjoyed reading about all of the characters, though. Jaclyn expertly balances a big cast and gives everyone interesting personalities and mannerisms. From talkative water sprites to inconsiderate aunts, like Aunt Nancy, who leaves poor, sickly Bronte to fend for herself when she visits her house up in the snowy mountains.
The second thing was how beautifully whimsical and quirky the writing is. It’s what I enjoy most about Jaclyn’s books, she’s got such a unique voice and you get swept up in the wonders of each universe. Reading this book in particular evoked the feeling of jumping into one of those Mary Poppins chalk drawings where everything is completely charming and fun and you might even have a sing-along with some animals. But I also got a kick out of the humour and wry comments scattered throughout, like Bronte bringing up story motifs:
“I had read plenty of stories about children meeting grumpy older people and cheering them up. They did this by being delightful and sunny themselves, and also by opening all the curtains. At first, the grumpy people found the child irritating, but then they could not help but be charmed. I wasn’t sure how to be delightful and sunny, but I could open curtains.” (Chapter 69)
Embedded in the writing was the third thing I loved: the imaginative descriptions. Like Bronte’s heart becoming “terribly busy, as if it had suddenly remembered just how much it had to beat” when she was nervous. Or when Bronte was trying to chat with her cousins but she was way too tired to function, then the boys “weren’t even blurs through my eyes – they were shapes between blinks. No, not even shapes. They were the sounds that shapes make.” Every chapter is a treat.
I also want to give a big shout out to the book’s illustrator, Kelly Canby, who is brilliant. The illustrations complement the text so well, and the cover is beautiful. A favourite illustration of mine is of Bronte and her Aunt Sophy hanging out with dragons, who have these amazing gemstone scales. It was that Mary Poppins feeling again of wanting to jump into the picture and experience everything – but instead of flying a kite I’d fly with a dragon. I mean, who doesn’t love dragons?
I’m looking forward to Jaclyn and Kelly’s next collaboration, a book set in the same world as this one, called The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars out in November 2018.