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Book review: The Emperor’s Ostrich, by Julie Berry

Berry, Julie. The Emperor’s Ostrich. Roaring Brook, 2017. $16.99. 276p. ISBN 978-1-59643-958-0. Ages 9-12. P8Q8

This funny fantasy from the author of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place begins with the story of a selfish, disliked young emperor and Begonia, a young peasant girl who needs to find her runaway cow, Alfalfa. Two ancestral spirits teach the bullying leader a lesson before he is fully anointed by leaving him in the wilderness with only an ostrich as companion while providing a magical map for Begonia. She finds a wandering young man, Key, who decides to save Begonia, and together they find Alfalfa before encountering a bedraggled obnoxious young man (the emperor, of course) and the ostrich. As if this weren’t convoluted enough, they meet a con man who wants to capture all of them for his circus and then find themselves in the middle of a coup to take the country from the emperor. Obviously, whimsy abounds in the details and lessons are learned by all, even the ancient spirits. The emperor has the appearance of a stereotyped Genghis Khan although the medieval setting is more European.

Verdict: The vignettes reflect problems of class and gender stereotypes in lighthearted ways, and the wordplay will undoubtedly entertain.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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