The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Kate Liebman (April 2016, Fabled Films), $15.99, ISBN: 9781944020002
Recommended for ages 7-12
Animal fiction fans, get ready: there’s a new group in town, and they only go on adventures at night. The Nocturnals, or as they refer to themselves, the Brigade, are Dawn, a smart and serious fox; Tobin, a very sweet pangolin, and Bismark, a loud, well-meaning but self-centered sugar glider. (Don’t call him a squirrel or a bat!) Shortly after the three meet, they find themselves investigating a mystery: animals are disappearing! As the Nocturnals search for answers, they meet other animals along the way that will help them – but can they avoid being kidnapped by the mysterious culprit?
The Nocturnals is a fun, packed with humor and a little shot of adventure for intermediate and middle grade readers. Color artwork by Kate Liebman adds interest and kicks off each chapter, and she captures the various personalities created by author Tracey Hecht. Bismark is almost hilariously over the top, slipping into different languages, professing his love for Dawn, the fox, and making sure everyone within earshot knows he’s the star of the show, if only in his imagination. Dawn is observant, often serious, and quick to figure things out (she is a fox, after all), and Tobin is the kind peacemaker who finds his self-esteem on this first outing. Book 2, The Ominous Eye, is due out in September.
I like the positive messages in the book – teamwork and keeping promises among them – and I like the use of animals we don’t normally discover on adventures: sugar gliders, wombats, and tobins! The book provides a great opportunity to introduce these animals to children’s vocabulary, and indeed, The Nocturnals website has some excellent educator resources available, including printable animal fact cards, book club questions, coloring sheets, and resources for ELA and Science education. I was excited to see a book club script suggestion, so I can get my readers busy acting the parts out (since book discussions don’t work with my kids, this is an interesting and fun project to approach them with). The Nocturnals website also offers to send a free cape for your stuffed animal if you join their Brigade!
Animal fiction is great for intermediate and middle graders – The Nocturnals should be a good fit with collections. Booktalk and display this with your Erin Hunter books (Warriors/Seekers/Survivors), the Spirit Animals series, and Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole and Horses of the Dawn series.
Take a look at the book trailer for The Mysterious Abductions.