Quirky, adventure-filled, contemplative. Albert of Adelaide is a book that is hard to describe. Probably because there isn’t really another book like it. No read-alikes here. After all, our title character is a platypus. And I think that quality – that uniqueness – is enough to attract the curiosity of certain teens all by itself.
Howard Anderson is quite an original himself. (Check out this interview.) He describes the book this way: “The novel is about a platypus named Albert following a legend to a place he didn’t expect. Initially, it is the story of one creature willing to die rather than be held captive one more day. It becomes a story of the obligations of friendship and the price of fame.”
Adult/High School–One thing Albert knows for certain: Living encaged in a zoo is no life at all. He has heard rumors from other zoo animals of a place known as Old Australia, where things haven’t changed and animals still run free. So, like any platypus that yearns for the rush of river water and the company of mates, he quits the zoo, taking with him only a soda bottle filled with water. His journey soon becomes one of swashbuckling adventure, as Albert finds himself in the middle of turf wars and long-standing enmities amid the animals living in the Australian Outback. As distinctly drawn as Albert’s own earnest and brave character are those of his new friends, Jack the embittered wombat and American-born TJ, a thieving raccoon of honor and courage. While the arc of the story is simple–young platypus grows in self-understanding as he experiences the good and evil of the world–the setting is fabulously exotic. The landscape of the Northern Territory, and, more importantly, the extraordinary native animals, increase the book’s fantastical mystique. It’s tempting to compare this novel to others that feature talking animals, but it’s really more closely related to shoot-‘em-up-westerns or war stories. For most teens, this will be an out-of-the box recommendation. Adventurous readers will appreciate the quirky pretext for a hearty coming-of-age story Down Under.–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FLA