MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY FICTION : The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.

But their work must be kept secret—others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?

One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared—along with nearly all the monsters.

With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).

REVIEW

Cordelia Clay and her father run a veterinary clinic for monsters.  When they receive word of an injured monster they go out to retrieve and bring it back to their home to help it heal.  Many of the monsters remain with them afterwords.  Cordelia and her father believe they are helping the monsters by protecting them from the outside world.  But one day after rescuing a baby dragon, Cordelia wakes up to find her father and most of the monsters gone.  After finding a threatening letter, Cordelia sets off with her new friend, Gregory, and three monsters (a filch, baby dragon, and zombie puppy) to find her father.

The children's efforts lead them to an abandoned train station where they are nearly devoured by a monstrous dog.  In their efforts to escape they learn about a circus with monsters in New York.  They set off for New York where they almost end up being eaten by lions (I'm sensing a pattern here).  After a narrow escape due to the help of Cordelia's former best friend, Elizabeth, they float away in a hot air balloon.  Landing on a college campus in Canada, they receive some advice from a professor that leads them back to Boston to confront a well-known monster hater who may have her father and his monsters imprisoned.

But once again things aren't as they appear and the children end up facing far more than they ever imagined.  Can they find a way to free themselves or are they and the world's monsters set for extinction?  Oliver's tale of trying to find acceptance in a world that rejects those that are difference makes for a thoughtful and exciting read.  Cordelia's struggles to accept changing circumstances, the loss of her mother as well as new and old friendships adds depth to the action-packed story.  Additional themes related to the freedom to be yourself and exactly what a monster is make the story all the more interesting.  I did find the 'monster' encyclopedia at the beginning a bit odd, that sort of thing is usually found at the end and I think it would work better there, but that's a minor quibble on my part, as is the dark haired girl on the cover representing a character described in the text as being red-headed.  These minor issues don't detract from the unusual story of friends, and family, and monsters.

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