REVIEW: THE DOLDRUMS, BY NICHOLAS GANNON

doldrums coverThe Doldrums
Written and Illustrated by Nicholas Gannon
Published by Greenwillow Books

Eleven year old Archer Helmsley is a kid with a big imagination, whose immediate family (his father is a lawyer and his mother is boring) would prefer his imagination were just a little bit less, well, imaginative. Go back a few branches in his family tree and his grandparents were explorers who went missing in Antarctica just a few short years ago; it is after them that Archer takes, despite having never met them and much to his parent’s chagrin.

Following their disappearance, the family moves into the grandparent’s house, where Archer’s imagination and adventurous spirit is further stoked by the myriad artifacts from their many exploits.

The Doldrums, Ganonn’s first novel, is structured in three parts, with the first chronicling the tedium of Archer’s life, his conversations with taxedermy animals and his burgeoning doldrums illustrationfriendship with neighbour Oliver. In the second part, their world expands with the inclusion of a bewitching French girl named Adélaïde who moves in next door, whose leg may or may not have been taken by a crocodile.

The third part is titled The Journey Begins; I hoped and expected that the newly minted trio would take to Antarctica after Archer’s lost grandparents, but alas, no. (I’m not ruining anything by saying so… The alternative is wonderful and leaves one wanting not at all. Though the spine gives away that this is a Book One, so undoubtedly we will get there eventually.)

The Doldrums is a book best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a high-lighter nearby, as Gannon is a master of the quotable line; not many pages pass without at least one passage begging to be remembered. It’s a book begging for a film adaption, which could never live up to the reading experience.

The illustrations, also by Gannon, are gourgeous; imagine Edward Gorey illustrations done by Chris Van Allsburg, and you’ll get the idea. Indeed, the book is a treasure, with publisher Greenwillow Books sparing no expense. It’s always so disappointing to flip through a book designed to be an objet d’art, which has been done in by cut corners and poor execution; thankfully, that is not the case here.

The reviewer in me would love to say “What undoes The Doldrums is…” or “But the book falls apart when…” but I cannot. This is a bravura debut from an author aligned to be a major voice for some time. With even the tiniest bit of luck (luck is necessary for these things, no matter how good the work) The Doldrums and Gannon’s forthcoming work will find their audience; you will hear about this book eventually… Read it now and be the one to spread the word.
-J.H.

Kinderlit.ca received a copy of The Doldrums in exchange for an honest review. Read about our Review Policy HERE.

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