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Review of The Emperor’s Ostrich

The Emperor’s Ostrich
by Julie Berry
Intermediate, Middle School    Roaring Brook    276 pp.
7/17    978-1-59643-958-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-59643-959-7    $9.99

A beloved farm animal, a perpetually messy young man, a missing boy emperor, and a sturdy heroine are at the center of Berry’s lively literary fairy tale, a loving homage to Lloyd Alexander and his stories about a pig-keeper and his companions. The story begins with a selfish brat of an emperor behaving so badly that a pair of bantering ancestor spirits decides to teach him a lesson. Next, readers are introduced to the hard-working and reliable milkmaid Begonia, who, upon discovering that the family cow Alfalfa is missing, resolutely heads out to find her. After two kind locals give her a map and a pot of spicy mustard (both magical), Begonia meets a filthy but determinedly chivalrous young man who insists on joining her quest. The errant cow is soon found, having in the meanwhile become besotted with an eight-foot-tall ostrich owned by an arrogant boy dressed in tattered pajamas. Pursued by nefarious individuals, the three reluctantly join forces and carom from one suspenseful adventure to the next, comrades of the road. In this rollicking entertainment of magic, wit, hidden identities, and determination, Berry has hit all the right notes to please fairy tale–loving young readers. She gracefully brings the young heroine and her two companions to better understandings of themselves, provides ample cliffhanging scenes of drama and excitement, and sees to it that the villains are punished in highly satisfying ways. And, of course — spoiler alert — there are happy endings for all, lovesick animals included.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.

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