One of our recommended books is Malamander by Thomas Taylor

MALAMANDER

The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea


It’s winter in the town of Eerie-on-Sea, where the mist is thick and the salt spray is rattling the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Inside, young Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder for the hotel, has an unexpected visitor. It seems that Violet Parma, a fearless girl around his age, lost her parents at the hotel when she was a baby, and she’s sure that the nervous Herbert is the only person who can help her find them. The trouble is, Violet is being pursued at that moment by a strange hook-handed man. And the town legend of the Malamander — a part-fish,

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It’s winter in the town of Eerie-on-Sea, where the mist is thick and the salt spray is rattling the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Inside, young Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder for the hotel, has an unexpected visitor. It seems that Violet Parma, a fearless girl around his age, lost her parents at the hotel when she was a baby, and she’s sure that the nervous Herbert is the only person who can help her find them. The trouble is, Violet is being pursued at that moment by a strange hook-handed man. And the town legend of the Malamander — a part-fish, part-human monster whose egg is said to make dreams come true — is rearing its scaly head. As various townspeople, some good-hearted, some nefarious, reveal themselves to be monster hunters on the sly, can Herbert and Violet elude them and discover what happened to Violet’s kin? This lighthearted, fantastical mystery, featuring black-and-white spot illustrations, kicks off a trilogy of fantasies set in the seaside town.

A quirky, creepy fantasy set in Eerie-on-Sea finds a colorful cast of characters in hot pursuit of a sea monster thought to convey a surprising gift.

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  • Walker Books US
  • Hardcover
  • September 2019
  • 304 Pages
  • 9781536207224

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$16.99

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About Thomas Taylor & Tom Booth (illustrator)

Thomas Taylor is the author of MalamanderThomas Taylor is an award-winning author-illustrator for children. He illustrated the cover for the very first British edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and has since gone on to write and illustrate several picture books and young novels, most recently the graphic novel Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick. He lives on the south coast of England.

 

Tom Booth is the illustrator of MalamanderArt director by day and author-illustrator by night, Tom Booth is a maker of acclaimed children’s books, including Don’t Blink!, This Is Christmas, and Who Wins? He made his earliest marks — sometimes on his parents’ antique kitchen table — growing up in Pennsylvania. Now living in Brooklyn, New York, he is currently at work on several children’s books on a table all his own.

Praise

“It’s all very exciting and cliff-hangery and carried off with charm and dash.”The Wall Street Journal

Malamander is the kind of book I dreamed about as a kid: a magical blend of oddball folklore and humor about two peculiar and plucky kids who puzzle out some local secrets in a town that is a character in its own right.” —Kate Milford, best-selling author of the Greenglass House series

“This creepy, quirky debut trilogy opener—think H.P. Lovecraft crossed with John Bellairs—is dank, misty fun.” Kirkus Reviews

“Taylor combines atmospheric descriptions with tongue-in-cheek humor, off-kilter concepts … and quirky characters to create an unusual series opener. Meanwhile, exaggerated, stylized illustrations from Booth  bring both cast and setting to life, capturing the feel of this fantastical, energetic mystery.” Publishers Weekly

“The fast-paced narrative includes subtle humor, clever plays on words, and rich cinematic details augmented by black-and-white illustrations and a map. Colorful characters, palpable atmosphere, close calls and some deliberately unanswered questions…will hook readers on this new British series and leave them eager for more. A crowd-pleasing fantasy.” School Library Journal

“Fans of Lemony Snicket or Pseudonymous Bosch will find their next adventure here.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

Discussion Questions

1. How do you get the sense that the beach is dangerous for Herbie and Violet? Pick out key words and phrases.

2. Why is the name of the town, Eerie-on-Sea, effective in the context of the story? What are its connotations?

3. How does the author use imagery of light and dark to set the scene?

4. The author uses a variation of short and long sentences in this extract. Why do you think he does this?

5. Why does Eerie-on-Sea get a lot of tourists in the summer, according to the character Mrs. F?

6. What happened to all of the heroes in the legends, according to Mrs. F?

7. What is the Loch Ness Monster? How is the legend of the malamander similar to that of the Loch Ness Monster?

8. How old is the story of the malamander?

9. How does the author, Thomas Taylor, create a dreamlike quality in his writing? Why do you think he does this?

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Eerie-on-Sea

You’ve probably been to Eerie-on-Sea, without ever knowing it.

When you came, it would have been summer. There would have been ice cream and deck chairs and a seagull that pinched your chips. You probably poked around in the rock pools with you mum, while your dad found that funny shell. Remember? And I”ll bet, when you got in the car to drive home, you looked up at the words Cheerie-on-Sea — written in light-bulb letters over the pier—and got ready to forget all about your day at the seaside.

It’s that kind of place.

In the summer.

But you should try being here when the first winter storms blow in, when the letters C and H blow off the pier, as they always do in November. When sea mist drifts up the streets likevast ghostly tentacles, and saltwater spray rattles the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Few people visit Eerie-on-Sea then. Even the locals keep off the beach when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous malamander creep.

But you probably don’t believe in the malamander. You maybe think there’s no way a fish man can be real. And that’s fine. Stick to your ice cream and deck chairs. This story probably isn’t for you, anyway. In fact, do yourself a favor and stop reading now. Close this book and lock it in an old tin box. Wrap the box in a heavy chain and throw it off the pier. Forget you ever heard of Eerie-on-Sea. Go back to your normal life—grow up, get married, start a family. And when your children can walk, take them for a day at the seaside, too. In the summer, of course. Stroll on the beach and find a funny shell of your own. Reach down and pick it up. Only, it’s stuck to something . . .

Stuck to an old tin box.

The lock has been torn off and the chain is gone. Can the sea do that? You open the box and find —

It’s empty.

Nothing but barnacles and seaweed and something else. Something like . . . slime?

You hear a sound behind you — a sound like footsteps, coming closer. Like slimy, slippery footsteps coming closer.

You turn around.

What do you see?

Really?

Well, maybe this story is for you, after all.

 

Chapter 2

The Grand Nautilus Hotel

My name’s Herbert Lemon, by the way. But most people call me Herbie. I’m the Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, as you can see from my cap. Someone once told me that most hotels don’t have a Lost-and-Founder, but that can’t be right. What do they do with all the lost stuff, then? And how do the people who’ve lost it get it back?

I’m a bit young for such an important job, I suppose, but Lady Kraken herself — the owner of the hotel — gave it to me. Even Mr. Mollusc, the hotel manager, can’t argue with that. He’d like to, of course — he hates anything in the hotel that doesn’t make money. If he’d had his way, the Lost-and-Foundery would have been shut down as soon as he became manager, and my little cubbyhole in the reception lobby would have been

boarded up for good. And if that had happened, I’d never have met the girl.

The girl I found scrambling though my window.

The girl who said, “Hide me!”

___

“Hide me!”

I look her up and down. Well, mostly up, because she’s gotten herself stuck on the window latch, and the cellar windows are near the ceiling. If she’s a burglar, she’s not a very good one.

“Please!”

I get her unstuck, although that means nearly being squashed as she tumbles inside. It is snowing, so a whole lot of winter comes in through the window, too.

We get to our feet and now I’m face-to-face with her: a girl in a ratty pullover with a woolly bobble hat over a mass of curly hair. She looks as though she’s about to speak, but she stops at the sound of raised voices up above. Raised voices that are getting closer. The girl opens her eyes wide with panic.

“In here!” I whisper, and pull her over to a large travel trunk that’s been in the Lost-and-Foundery, unclaimed, for decades. Before she can say anything, I shove her inside and close the lid.

The voices are right up at my cubbyhole now — the whining, wheedling sound of Mr. Mollusc trying to deal with someone difficult. I grab a few lost bags, umbrellas, and other odds and ends, dump them on top of the trunk, and hope they look as if they’ve been there for years. Then the bell on my counter, the one people ring when they want my attention, starts TING, TING, TING-ing like crazy. I straighten my cap, run up the cellar steps to my cubbyhole, and turn on my “How may I help you?” face, as if nothing strange has just happened at all.

Mr. Mollusc is the first person I see, trying to smooth his hair over his bald patch.

“I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding,” he splutters to someone. “If you would just allow me to make inquiries . . .”

The someone he is talking to is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen before. It’s a man in a long black sailor’s coat that’s sodden with water. He looms over the desk like a crooked monolith, his face a dismal crag, his eyes hidden beneath the peak of a ruined captain’s cap. With one stiff finger, he is jabbing the button of my bell as if he’s stabbing it with a knife. He stops when I arrive and leans in even farther, covering me in shadow.

“Where . . . ?” he says in a voice that sounds like two slabs of wet granite being scraped together. “Girl. Where?”

“Ahem,” I say, clearing my throat and putting on the posh voice Mr. Mollusc expects me to use with guests. “To whom may you be referring, sir?” The man’s mouth, which is nothing more than a wide upside-down V in his dripping bone-yellow beard, opens with a hiss. I notice there is seaweed in that beard, and more is tangled around his tarnished brass buttons. He smells as though something bad is about to happen.

“WHERE?”

I gulp. Well, I can’t help it, can I? I’m just a lost-property attendant. I’m not trained for this.

“My dear sir,” purrs the voice of Mr. Mollusc, “I’m sure we can sort this out. What exactly have you lost?”

The man pulls himself back out of my cubbyhole and towers over Mr. Mollusc. He draws his right hand, which has been hidden till now, out of his coat. Mr. Mollusc shrinks back when he sees that where the man’s hand should be is a large iron boat hook, ending in a long gleaming spike.

“Girl,” the man says.

Now, one thing I will say about old Mollusc is that he knows which battles to fight. In this case, since there’s no way he can beat this great hulking intruder, he decides to join him instead. He turns on me.

“Herbert Lemon! Do you have a girl down there?”

“ Now they’re both looming in at me.

I shake my head. My “How may I help you?” face dissolves, so I try an innocent grin instead.

“No,” I manage to say in a squeaky voice. I hate it when my voice does that. “No girls are hiding down here. None at all.”

And that’s when there’s a soft thud from down in the basement behind me. It sounds exactly like someone who is hiding in a travel trunk is trying to make themselves more comfortable.

Oops.

The bearded sailor opens his mouth in a moan of triumph; his dark eyes flash beneath his cap. He yanks open the door to my cubbyhole and shoves me against the wall as he pushes past. He squeezes down the steps to the cellar, filling the tunnel, his back crooked as he stoops beneath the low ceiling.

I hurry after him. This isn’t me being brave, by the way. This is just me not knowing what else to do.

The sailor is standing in the middle of the room, commanding the space. I see him look at the patch of melted snow beneath the open cellar window. I see him turn his head to follow the wet footprints that lead straight to the travel trunk. The bags and umbrellas I dumped on it have fallen off. By now there might as well be a big flashing sign over that trunk that reads: YOO-HOO! SHE’S IN HERE! Mr. Mollusc, rushing down to join the party, sees all this, too, and goes crimson with rage.

“Herbert Lemon! Why, I ought to . . .”

But what he “ought to” I don’t find out, because of what the sailor-with-a-spike-for-a-hand does next. He raises his spike and brings it down with a sickening thud, driving it deep into the lid of the chest. He wrenches it out and then swings again, and again. The lid of the trunk splits and sunders, splinters of wood raining down all around. The trunk itself begins to disintegrate. The man tears the rest of it open with the help of his one good hand to reveal . . .

Nothing!

Well, not quite nothing. There’s a very surprised-looking spider sitting among the wreckage. And a woolly bobble hat. I watch the spider scurry away and wish I could join it. Now all there is to look at is the hat. It is very definitely the brightly colored hat the girl was wearing. But of the girl herself, there is no sign.

With a slow, deliberate motion, Boat Hook Man skewers the hat on the tip of his spike. He turns and holds it out to me, his face like a thundercloud. Somehow, I find the courage not to squeak as I reach out and gently take the hat from him.

“Just some lost property,” I say. “It was, um, handed in this morning. I — I haven’t had a chance to label it yet, that’s all.”

There’s a moment of silence. Then Boat Hook Man roars — a great, wordless bellow of fury. He starts ransacking my cellar, sweeping his massive arms from side to side. I fall back to the stairs as bags, coats, hats, lost-thingummy-doodads of every kind — including some that must have lain undisturbed down here since almost forever — fly around. The man is going berserk trying to find the girl. But he finds no one.

She’s gone.

Text © 2019 by Thomas Taylor