International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:
Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Orion Children's Books (Jul 2009)
Sam North review
Take one adopted child call Teodora, add a cursed city under siege
from vindictive ghosts seeking revenge, a huge monster slowly coming
awake under the Venice lagoon, cannibal seagulls, anti-establishment
mermaids, a vain friend and one handsome Venetian boy and you have
all the ingredients for a spectacular adventure in real life Venice
Teo is an unusual
child in many ways. She has never believed she belonged in Naples and
when she finally persuades her scientist family to take her Venice she
feels she is coming home. She is unique in many ways. She never eats
fish, she can see what people are saying as handwriting appears above
their heads and she can tell if someone is pure of heart by just touching
their chest. She finally wins the argument but sadly she is to be accompanied
by a vain girl her own age, the daughter of her adoptive parents best
friends. Teo and Maria (who loath each other) are left to their own
devices in Venice as their families prepare to give lectures on how
Venice could be saved from drowning.
Teo delights In a wonderful old bookshop (she loves to read) a heavy
book falls on her head and she is hurt. The bookshop owner gives her
the book to keep her sweet and her worried parents take her back to
the hotel. The book is called The Key to the City
and the pages come alive. There is a girl on the cover who looks just
like Teo and winks at her when she holds it. It has an inscription dedicated
to her. Welcome to Venice, Teodora-of-sad-memory, we have been waiting
for you for a very long time. Very odd.
Her parents call in a Doctor as Teo keeps seeing things and has a headache.
He insists upon talking her to the hospital and thats where everything
begins to go terribly wrong. First a wooden statue moves and bleeds
terrifying everyone, and then Teo goes missing.
There are posters all over Venice alerting people to the Lost Girl.
But Teo is not lost or missing, she has become invisible to adults,
fallen between the lines. The book begins to talk to her, guide her
around Venice, begins to teach her the real city and the great threat
to it. Everywhere there are posters stating
Gone Missing Teodora Stampara, 11 years old from Naples curling dark
hair, green eyes, slight build, a large bruise on her forehead.
But Teo spots Maria with a young man with a suspicious mole on his head
and a gleaming bewitching emerald. She suspects the young man of being
evil but has no proof. Maris is in more danger than she knows but is
captivated by the jewels and trinkets the young man gives her.
Teo has to learn to survive by stealing food and eventually she meets
the boy Renzo who condescends to speak to her, despite her being from
Naples and eventually she shares The Key to the City with him.
Renzo is the son of a Gondolier and is very proud of Venice and fearful
of it drowning. Everywhere there are leaflets warning of trouble and
that no one must trust the Mayor. No one knows who is printing them.
The Mayor says Venice is safe but Renzo tells her children everywhere
are dying of plague and being buried at night so the tourists dont
see the families grieving.
Together with the aide of the book they meet the mermaids below the
House of Spirits and discover their purpose. Lussa, the beautiful Queen
of Mermaids and her kin, have been waiting for the Undrowned Child and
the Studious Son for a long time. They enlist their help to defeat the
awakening monster below and the evil Bajamonte Tiepolo who once tried
to destroy Venice in 1310 and has awoken and wants to try again. TAlong
the way they also discover that Maria is a traitor and she is being
turned into a dwarf!
The Undrowned Child is a fantastic tale, rich in detail, complex, scary
and Teo and Renzo make a fine couple battling all, risking life and
limb for a city they love. Along the way the history of Venice unfolds
and we meet astonishing creatures, flying Syrian cats and the massed
forces of evil gathering to murder every living soul in Venice.
The Undrowned Child is a truly astonishing novel by Michelle Lovric
that any child who loves words and ghosts will treasure for a very long
© Sam North September 22nd 2009
Editor of Hackwriters and author of Mean
Young Ficiton reviews
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