Just a little excited. That, and FULL OF CAFFEINE!!! Woke up at
Angus, Jennifer. In Search of Goliathus Hercules
1 March 2013, Albert Whitman
Henri is sent from London in the 1890's by his worried mother, since his father, stationed in British Malaya with the British East India Company, has not been heard from in over a year. He is staying with his elderly Great Aunt Georgie, who is an avid button collector. Her friend, the widow Black, collects seeds, and takes a creepy interest in Henri, who has discovered that he has the ability to communicate with insects. Because life is boring with his aunt, he decides to run away and help Maestro Antonio with his flea circus. Obviously, his skills come in very handy when orchestrating flea tricks, and things go fairly well. That is, until Madame Noir shows up. She seems intent on killing insects in order to warn Henri away from her. With his new friends Robin, a clown, and Billy, a lion tamer's assistance, Henri and Antonio decide to use the proceeds from their success to travel to London and, eventually, Malaya, where they hope to find not only Henri's absent father, but also the elusive Goliathus Hercules, an enormous and dangerous Beetle with whom Henri has an unhealthy fascination. Along the way, the group encounters Professor Young, an entomologist studying insect communication, as well as other explorers and scientists, Malayans, and the evil Mrs. Black (at a most inconvenient time.) They do find the beetle, whom they name Prince, and he reluctantly agrees to come back to London with them. Problems remain, however; is it possible that Henri could communicate with insects because he IS one?
Strengths: This felt familiar and old fashioned; I kept thinking that Charlotte really needed to read it! It moves along at a good pace, and it very rich in period detail. Running away to join a circus is always a good idea! Good ensemble cast, and a great villain. Love the period photos, too. The end took a twist I did not expect.
Weaknesses: There were some things I wanted more explanation for, although I can understand why they aren't explained. Why is Henri turning into an insect? What is Mrs. Black's motivation? Readers unfamiliar with this time period would have benefited from more information about the popularity of exploring and explorers' groups at this time.