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The Floating Island: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme

by Haydon, Elizabeth


Book Review     

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Publishers Weekly :

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The sometimes exciting, sometimes ponderous first volume in Haydon's the Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series mixes narrative with "lost journal" entries to tell the story of Ven, the youngest of 13 children in a Nain family. The Nain are a race that lives four times longer than humans. Ven, whose family is renowned for its ship-building prowess, is giving one of their boats a pre-sale inspection when it comes under a vicious attack from the Fire Pirates. After a courageous and resourceful retaliation—one which nonetheless leaves Ven unconscious—he is rescued by a mermaid-like creature and ends up aboard a ship of friendly adventurers. From there it's a kitchen sink's worth of fantasy/adventure encounters, from a talking cat to mysterious puzzle boxes to the undead. Most interesting is the island of the title, "a ship of sorts" connected to the world's creation story, "a very old place, a magical place." Haydon spins a story both warm and thrilling. The book's alternating-narrative structure, however, is less successful. Ven's entries are infrequent enough that they feel like more of an interruption in the story's flow than part and parcel of it. But strong box office interest in pirates and all things nautical bodes well for this title. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 5-9–Ven Polypheme, a young Nain explorer, traveled much of the known and unknown world. Recently discovered fragments of his journal are the inspiration for this exciting and imaginative tale. Ven, a short, hobbitlike fellow, is celebrating his 50th birthday (he's approximately 13 in human years). He's the youngest of 13 children, has yet to sprout a single whisker, and can't seem to find his place in the family boatbuilding business. On its inspection cruise, their newest vessel is ambushed by pirates. In trying to set the attackers' ship on fire, Ven destroys both vessels. Saved by a mermaid, he ends up onboard the Serelinda, where he is befriended by Captain Oliver and Char, the galley assistant. Several adventures later, Ven and Char find themselves at the Crossroads Inn, which is filled with orphans, any number of fairies and ghosts, Murphy the talking cat, and Captain Oliver's wife, Mrs. Snodgrass. Mysteries abound. Mr. Whiting, the snooty owner of a nearby inn, has the youngster thrown in prison for stealing, but then shows up to rescue him. The crossroads near the inn are haunted by evil spirits, and the Living Water and Floating Island have magical powers. Haydon's fantastical universe, originally created for her adult novels, is filled with fun details, interesting characters, fast-paced adventure, snappy dialogue, and plenty of humor and heart.–Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library

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BookList :

From BookList, September 1, 2006, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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*Starred Review*

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Ven, the thirteenth Polypheme child, has grown up in his family's ship-building business and tried his hand in every department. On his fiftieth birthday (the equivalent of a human's twelfth), he draws the short straw and is sent out to inspect his family's new ship. When the ship is attacked by Fire Pirates, who are known for leaving no survivors, and the youth is ordered to scuttle the ship, he figures out a way to do in the pirates as well. After surviving, he is helped by a mermaid and by a kindly captain, who sends him to an inn run by his wife. It turns out that the captain's wife has peculiar rules intended to keep people safe from evil, and the inn is filled with interesting boarders--among them, a talking cat and a ghost. In her first book for young people, Haydon, a popular author of numerous fantasies for older readers, uses journal entries interspersed throughout a fast-paced narrative to help bring Ven to life. Her world building is as successful as her characters, with Helquist's occasional loose sketches providing some visual distraction and additional atmosphere. A delightful epic fantasy that will attract a readership both older and younger than the target audience.
DianaHerald.

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