“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Basilik's Lair (Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist, Book Two) • Middle-grade fiction

The Basilisk's Lair
by R. L. LaFevers illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Just out! June 2010 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Ages 7 - 11
Pack your goggles, rue, and an extra pair of gloves and join Nate on another unbelievable adventure—there’s no rest for the world’s youngest beastologist-in-training!
Story:  Nate Fludd, Beastologist, is back in the camel saddle in hot pursuit of a missing, deadly Basilisk—the King of Serpents. As if saving an entire Dhughani village from the Basilisk’s poisonous gaze isn’t difficult enough, Nate and Aunt Phil must begin to piece together the mystery of his parents’ disappearance and protect the lone copy of the Fludd Book of Beasts from a sinister man who always seem to be one step ahead of them.  There's no rest for the world's youngest beastologist-in-training!
Story behind the story:  Last month, author R.L. LaFevers was in town and I had the chance to sit down with her AND illustrator Kelly Murphy AND their editor, Kate O'Sullivan AND their publicist, Jennifer Taber.  What a group.  Who better to give you the story behind the story than those involved in the creation of the book?!  Over to them, but first a photo from the lunch that Houghton hosted to bring everyone together:

OK, so Kate and Kelly aren't in the pic, sorry!, but from left to right: librarian and Everyday Reading blogger Janssen; Jennifer Taber; author R.L. La Fevers, and Margaret Aldrich from Wellesley Booksmith). Here goes on the story: Kate O'Sullivan, Senior Editor, Houghton Mifflin: "When Robin first told me about her idea for the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series, it was so genius, so irresistible and perfect for emerging readers who were hungry for fantasy but not quite ready for longer books, that I was surprised that no one had beaten her to the punch. I love how Nate’s far-flung adventures are easy to read and to follow, with pacing that makes the story zip right along. 

The stories begged to be illustrated and it happens that one of my favorite parts about my job is matching artists to projects. I knew that Kelly Murphy would be the dream illustrator to work on the Nate series, and she has brought such visual warmth and charm to the books—as only the best artists can do. Robin and Kelly are an unstoppable team, and their Nate collaborations are some of my very favorite books. I especially like how this series has a nicely underscored message of conservation. It’s wrapped up in a delicious fantasy adventure about magical beasts, but I don’t think readers will miss the call to value life of all species, magical or not."

Author R. L. LaFevers : "When Kate first sent me the names of a few illustrators to consider for Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, it was pretty much love at first site with Kelly Murphy [in this photo, Kelly's on the left]. For one, the home page of her old website was a map, and Nate Fludd came from a long line of cartographers and explorers, so I felt kismet was at work right from the beginning. But when I read that her favorite reading material was atlases? I KNEW we had found the person meant to illustrate these books.

That feeling only grew as Kelly worked on the project. When I saw her first sketches of Nate, I was completely bowled over. She had captured every bit of his uncertainty and vulnerability. It was as if she had reached inside my brain and snatched my own mental images of him right from my head. Her uncanny ability to do that continued with nearly every drawing she did.

I also remember early on, visiting her blog when she’d posted some of her initial sketches. When she talked about the books, she said, “I could not have written a story myself that includes all of the things I love: birds (dodos!), atlases, explorers, sketchbooks, compasses, dirigibles, Bedouin, post World War One era...” And I remember thinking how unbelievably lucky I was that we share such similar interests. If I hadn’t been convinced before, I was then: My editor to had found the single most perfect person to illustrate these books!"

Illustrator Kelly Murphy: "I think every illustrator loves the opportunity for the freedom of creativity. But to have that freedom combined with a variety of character, location (which is my favorite), and beasts is an absolute dream project. Ever since I was very young, I would treasure the family subscription to National Geographic. Each month brought new animals, new cultures, and new ideas I had not seen yet. Another childhood favorite of mine was the giant sized National Geographic Atlas my father received as a present on Christmas. I would spend HOURS laying on the floor, thinking of what this distant lands might look like. As time passed, these volumes became stacked in the basement, not knowing how or where to put them. 

Eventually, when it became time to move, these treasures were almost lost. Thank goodness I had the sense to grab them all (and they were heavy), protect them in a plastic storage box, and wait till one day I had an apartment with some bookshelves to use them. Literally, a month before receiving Robin's text from Kate... I finally dusted off National Geographic and displayed them on my own shelves. They have been such an amazing resource while making these illustrations. The way Robin describes the settings, I truly thought they were magical. I am astounded when I get to do my own research that they are all based on real places."

A Junior Library Guild Selection
Praise for the series:
“A solid start to a new series. . . . A quick and enticing read that will appeal to a wide variety of children.” -School Library Journal

“A fastpaced story that successfully combines fantasy and history into an entertaining, believable world.”  -Booklist

“Straightforward sentences, chronological narrative, short chapters, and Murphy’s plentiful black-and-white illustrations make this appropriate for middle-grade readers looking for a series to grow with.” -Kirkus Reviews

“LaFevers gets the Nathanial Fludd, Beastologist series off to a sprightly start with this wry story. . . [a] quick-paced adventure, which should entice kids to return for Nate’s next escapade.” -Publishers Weekly

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say. 


April said...

What an awesomely fun looking and sounding book! This is a new series to me, so I can't wait to check them out!!

Peaceful Reader said...

Ahhh, I got so excited reading the whole intro and looking at the pictures and then sad face when I see the FYI-no copies left! :(

dining tables said...

Wow! My kids are going to love that book. They like that kind of book. I know if they see this post they are going to be excited.

Laura _SPED Teacher said...

I just recieved the book today, I already starting diving in. It seems like a great book!

I love that it "looks" like a big/regular book. However, the number of words on a page are no overwhelming for even the struggling readers!

Can't wait to finish it and post my review!

Mrs. Horne said...

This book is great...just getting into it, so looking forward to reading more!

sbcmom said...

I think this will be a perfect book series for my reluctant readers. The story line is easy to follow and the illustrations are fun. Nathaniel and his aunt are on a new adventure which involves a dangerous beast - the basilisk. He's unsure of himself but acquits himself handsomely when needed. The story moves along quickly and easily. The glossary in the back is a nice touch. I've already ordered the first book in the series for my classroom. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely a fun series.

Angie said...

LOVE the Theodosia books. Love, love, love them and so was really excited to try Nathaniel Fludd.
This series is definitely aimed at younger or less sophisticated readers than the Theodosia books. That's what I'm trying to tell myself to reconcile some of the disappointment. I didn't love this book. In fact I didn't like it at all. Too many places seemed rushed in the interest of making the story shorter (crossing a canyon via a rickety ladder for one ... I felt like that deserved more than the eight or so text lines plus one illustration that it got). I never really believed in the motivations of Nathaniel or his aunt. To be fair, I've never read book one. Perhaps their backstories are better explained in that volume.
I do still love this author (and the illustrations are fun, no matter my issues with the book!) and do think this story/series could "fit" with the struggling reader who wants so badly to be able to read fantasy. So this one ... somewhere between "Neutral" and "Recommend under Certain Reading Situations."

Anonymous said...

Even though I did not read the first book in the series it did not affect the understanding of Nathaniel's adventure. I really enjoyed this book. I know that my 6th graders will get into this book. The pictures will only add to their excitment.
I give this book a 5 in my basket.

Anonymous said...

Even though I did not read the first book in the series it did not affect the understanding of Nathaniel's adventure. I really enjoyed this book. I know that my 6th graders will get into this book. The pictures will only add to their excitment.
I give this book a 5 in my basket.

Jacque said...

I received this book for review the day before leaving on vacation! What luck! However, I get car-sick when reading, so my 8 year old son was able to start the book on the 3 hour drive to our beach vacation before me! We took turns reading it during the vacation and easily finished it in a week's time. Neither my son nor I read the first book, so we did have questions about why Nathaniel's parents were missing. I would have appreciated some back-story on that topic in this book. It seemed that it may come up again in Book 3. But the book was able to stand on its own without having read Book 1. My son enjoyed the illustrations, and saw similarities between Greasle in Nathaniel Fludd and Dobby the house elf in the Harry Potter books. I also enjoyed the illustrations but didn’t care for Greasle’s character. Perhaps if I had read the first book to discover why Greasle was with Nathaniel it would have cleared things up. All in all, this book earned a 3 in my picnic basket. It was short and easy enough for reluctant readers, but I am not sure that there was a draw at the beginning of the book to suck them into reading it. I wasn't blown away by the book. However, my son is begging for me to find Book 1 (It was not in Barnes and Noble when we checked this week) and he expressed interest in Book 3 for more information regarding Nathaniel’s dad’s disappearance.

Jacqueline Swauger
8th Grade Reading Teacher
Eyer Middle School
Macungie, PA

Anonymous said...

This book will be enjoyable to middle readers who like adventure. I rate this book a # 3 - it will be a fun read. It is easy to follow and has nice illustrations.

Linda said...

I was very excited when I received the book, but was a little disappointed as I read it. I felt that even as a fantasy/mystery book, the plot was not believable and seemed to go off track at parts. However, I feel as if this is more of my reaction to reading the book as an adult. I think that it has strong possibilities for the reluctant reader, especially reluctant boy readers. The glossary of terms at the end was a good resource, but it should have been in the beginning of the book. Having such a glossary gives credence to the story. I would give it a "3 or 4" but feel that I am not giving it justice since I did not read the first book. I think I’d rather reserve final judgment until my students read it in September.

Beth said...

I just finished reading my complimentary copy of Book Two, Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist.
I am not a fan of this type of fiction, but thought it would be a great book for my reluctant boy readers in class.
I was hooked after chapter one and I have not read the first book. Clearly, there are references from book one, but I never really felt like I didn't know what was going on.
The storyline flows smoothly and the fast action keeps you reading. I liked that there were several creative problem solving situations in the book that could be used in the classroom as ways to think outside of the box.
I also liked the guide in the back of the book, although it does mix fiction with non-fiction.
I believe this would be an excellent read aloud book for classrooms. I think it is descriptive and action filled-enough to keep any listener at the edge of their knees!
There were a few unanswered questions within the book that I felt needed to be addressed-did the gremlin attack the engine and how did the village repair the cave?
I would have also liked a map of the area that they were in. I think that this would help our younger readers understand the area that is being discussed.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book and I have a feeling, a soon to be very popular series.

Heather Hill said...

"The Basilisk's Lair" is book #2 of a series I hadn't yet heard of. Though I had not read the first book, the second was easy enough to follow. The premise of the series -- Nathaniel is training to continue the Fludd line of Beastologists -- makes for a good series that will entice readers.

I like that the book was substantial, but it had great illustrations throughout, so students struggling with chapter books could possibly be hooked by the series. For me, it was a quick read and enjoyable. I will introduce the series to some of my students for sure.

I give the book a 4 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

PLLoggerR said...

R. L. LaFevers "The Basilisk's Lair" is a good book for reluctant readers--simple plot, easy reading, imaginary beasts, and nice illustrations. The action starts with beastologist-in-training, Nate, and his beastologist Aunt Phil travelling across the desert on camels, with Nate navigating. Out of nowhere comes another rider with a telegram asking Aunt Phil to proceed immediately to a remote area of Sudan to deal with an escaped basilisk. Immediately questions come to mind--why is Nate with his Aunt? why are they in Africa? what is a beastologist? what is a basilisk? why has it escaped and who would care? and what role does the gremlin play? Some of these questions may have been answered in book one, others will be answered in this book. In any case the reader is along for the excitment of dealing with a terrifying beast.

A book sure to appeal to boys! I give this a 3.5 (would be a 4.0 if I didn't need to read the first book for some of the backstory).

As an aside--I liked the bit of math thrown in by the illustrator with the start of each chapter!

R Jensen, Co-Director
Peacham Library

loonyhiker said...

I thought this was a great book and would give it 5 out of 5. Even though I did not read the first book (This is book 2), it was a fun adventure for the reader. This young boy is training to be a beastologist with his aunt and seem to go on adventures looking for beasts. I think middle school students would enjoy reading this and it was just the right length. There were some great vocabulary words that could be used for learning in the classroom. I think this book would be appealing for boys because they could imagine that they were the hero of the story. I now want to go out and find book 1 and can’t wait for book 3 to come out! I could see this being added to a school library collection.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

Lemon the Duck said...

This title was hard to stick with, not having read the first book. At least I am hoping that is the reason. It took a long time to really get started and the motivation just wasn't there. The illustrations were great and added humor.
I didn't warm up to or even particuarly care for any of the characters. I think part of the issue was that I wasn't really sure what, as a reader, I needed to hold on to. I wasn't sure what was important since the story felt like it took so long to get started.
To be fair, I do think it will have some appeal to reluctant readers. The sticky situations Nate and Greasel find themselves in are silly but the more advanced reader, will look for something more "meaty".
I rate this book a 3 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School