I found this beauty in my local library years ago, and fell in love with it.
And what better to review than one of my favorites.
CAUTION: THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS! THEY SPOIL THE STORY.
Art Mumby lives a boring life. Until giant spiders arrive, that is. Larklight is set in 1800-era Britain, but with a twist. Instead of developing the combustion engine, steam technology became extremely popular, and even accelerated our space-travel program! This genre of fantasy is affectionately branded ‘Steampunk’. Art Mumby is a relatable little boy who nags his older sister, Myrtle, constantly. Their adventures through space are enjoyable at best, and provide an excellent reading challenge for around 11 to 12 year olds.
God is mentioned several times, although the only person who seems to believe in him is Myrtle. [Spoilers: Highlight to read]
What seems to be confusing, however, is the fact that Mrs. Mumby, Art and Myrtle’s mother, turns out to be this galaxy’s Shaper, who actually created the earth. Each galaxy is relegated a Shaper, a powerful, near-deitic being who creates all the planets, vegetation and wildlife in a system, then self-destructs. To make matters more confusing, however, Mrs. Mumby even references God as a living thing who is even over all the Shapers. [End Spoilers]
No innuendos or such things here, sah! This is strictly a boy-scout grade novel. All well and good and all that. One thing to be noted, however. One alien girl does remove the outer layer of her dress, exposing her petticoats, which horrifies Myrtle. [Spoilers: Highlight to read] And if you didn’t predict it before the end of the book, Myrtle and Jack kiss. [End Spoilers]
Never have I been so delighted to speak upon this subject! Most of the book is absolutely spotless, but since the book is actually the diary of a rugged ten-year-old, bad words are written with only the first and last letter.
Example: Darn, which would be written as D–n. All such language is written this way, and is a welcome substitute for cursing in books for younger audiences. Some parents may have issues with this, but I do point out, if they don’t know the word, then they will be none the worse, without teaching them something they shouldn’t know. Sometimes aliens will swear on foreign gods, however.
Drugs are not an issue, but since pirates are involved, sometimes references to drinking are mentioned. The aforementioned pirate crew does enter a bar on business, however. Otherwise, there aren’t any real happenings of imbibing.
Guts, guts, guts! Spider guts are everywhere! Gore is not an issue, but for lizard and plant-like beings, losing limbs are run-of-the-mill. Guess they grow back. People are anesthesized by spider venom, there are sword-fights, musket-fights, fist-fights, occasional mentions of floating space blood, an impalation of the leg, and….[Spoilers: Highlight to read] Even a giant robot or two. [End Spoilers]
Misc. other harmful elements:
Something parents might want to be wary of is the element of fantasy. Real science mixed with fantasy is fun, but can be misleading to younger readers.
[Spoilers: Highlight to read] The puzzling inclusion of both God and a Shaper also may be confusing, as well as the concept of evolution being used in creation. If your child is not easily influenced and has their feet planted in what you want them to believe, or if you even want to provoke theological and biological questions, Larklight probably won’t be a problem. [End Spoilers]
No magic is involved in the book or even mentioned, so that could be considered a plus for some families. A desire from many male characters, including even the pirates, for chivalry is very admirable and a good lesson in 1800’s manners. Myrtle is very prim and is seen as stuck-up, having to raise her brother without a mother and teach him manners, and adheres to very strict rules about young ladies’ activities. By the end of the book, however, her views have changed, and she becomes much more adventurous and brave while retaining her sense of femininity.
I chose this book as my first review because it happens to be a very dear favorite of mine. It will be the book I will read to my children at night, hopefully as a lingering tradition. The squeaky-cleanness of the book, the heartfelt emotion of the story, and the wonderful, wacky landscapes, creatures, and characters left me wanting more. It was incredible to read, and even better to share. Stay tuned for the review of the next book, StarCross! Thanks for reading!