Saturday, December 7, 2019

MMGM: Malamander (Malamander #1) by Thomas Taylor, illustrated by Tom Booth

It's bitter cold winter in Eerie-on-Sea, a coastal resort town, and there aren't many guests staying at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, which means that Herbert "Herbie" Lemon, 12 and in charge of the hotel's Lost and Foundry, isn't terribly busy either. That is until Violet Parma, also 12, enters his life climbing through the window of his small cubbyhole in the reception lobby asking to be hidden.

Violet is being chased by a sailor with a boat hook in place of a hand that was somehow lost. On the other hand, Violet is looking for her parents who had disappeared while staying in the Grand Nautilus when she was a baby and now she's come to enlist the services of Herbie Lemon, who is, after all, the hotel's Lost and Founder. The only clue Violet has is a card with some numbers on one side and a picture of a mermonkey in a top hat on the other side. It's a picture Herbie recognizes and so the two set off for the Eerie Book Dispensary.

At the Eerie Book Dispensary, which is owned by Mrs. Jenny Hanniver, they run into Sebastian Eels, an author and a local celebrity. Mrs. Hanniver recognizes Violet's name because she used to know her father, Peter Parma, also a writer. At the Book Dispensary, the book choses the reader by feeding the mechanical mermonkey a coin, which then issues a card, similar to the one Violet already has, and by following the code on the back, the reader finds the book that has been chosen for them. A book called Malamander by Captain K is chosen for Violet.

The malamander is a local legend, a monstrous half man, half fish creature with hideous spikes and steely scales protecting it. The creature lays one magical egg every year on midwinter night, which is fast approaching. The  egg is said to grant the dearest wish of whomever can get it. But to get the egg, the malamander has to be defeated, no easy task. And at the end of midwinter night, if a mate doesn't show up, the malamander eats the magical egg and seekers have to wait another year for another chance at the egg.

And there are a whole bunch of shady characters who would dearly love to get their hands on this magical egg, including a watery ghost, and they all seem to think Violet Parma has the secret to defeating the malamander, putting her and now Herbie in a very dangerous and most precarious position.

Malamander is a fun, quirky fantasy novel, narrated by the very lively and likable Herbie, who, like Violet is an orphan and has a story of his own, which we don't fully know...yet. The mystery of how and why Violet's parents disappeared keeps the action moving, mostly because Violet is fearless and determined and not above taking off on her own, despite the danger.

There are lots of plot twists and wordplay to be found among the adventures and different characters making the whole story feel very tongue-in-cheek at times. Adding to the fun and the idiosyncratic human characters is a cat named Erwin, who can speak when he wants to. He takes an instant liking to Violet, which proves to be a life-saving good thing.

Malamander is a fun fantasy for anyone who is looking for an offbeat mystery/adventure story that is the beginning of a new series.

You can find an excellent Teacher's Guide for the Malamander courtesy of the publisher HERE
You can find fun Activity pages to download courtesy of the publisher HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was received with gratitude from Candlewick Press and NetGalley

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle. 


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this first book in the series. Apparently the movie folks thought so too as it is being made into a movie with a 2021 release date. Thanks for your insights as I couldn't agree more.

  2. I loved this post! The title of the book really grabbed my attention, and then your thoughts about the plot twists and wordplay throughout the novel cemented my wish to read this story. The cover art is colorful and appealing--it sounds like a real winner. Thanks for sharing this book with us for MMGM!

  3. I don't think I have heard of this one before- but the cover really grabbed me and the story sounds like fun. I enjoy a good quirky book and look forward to checking this one out. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Like your enthusiasm for the story. It does sound like a thrilling fantasy with many plot turns. I especially like the idea of the Eerie Book Dispensary. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. What a fun-sounding book! The monster-mystery combo sounds fantastic! Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. That cover is a real stunner. Thanks for your very thorough review.

  7. Ah, I thought this sounded great until you mentioned it's the beginning of a series. But I think I will still give it a go. (Love that green cover *-*)


Imagination Designs