“I preferred to be called Petronella. Eunice is such an unfortunate name, and I cannot imagine what came over my dear but deceased parents when they gave it to me. Perhaps some sort of simultaneous apoplectic fit.”
Then we are introduced to her unfortunate uncle and guardian Augustus T. Percival:
Uncle Augustus frowned. . . . “It seems I have an enormous appetite for all things of the insect and arachnid varieties.” He caught a passing fly in one swift movement of his hand, popped it into his mouth, and chewed happily.
James Sinclair is the hero of the piece and Petronella’s love interest:
James’s eyes twinkled, and his mouth curved in a smile that had smitten me since I was five and he was nine. If only he were not Jane’s brother—brother of my bosom friend—he might consider me as more than a younger sister. But fate plays cruel games with hearts and show no remorse. If I were to have him notice me at all, it should have to be as a sister, and I should have to be content with that or nothing, and to have nothing of James would be the cruelest fate of all.
And Jane, James’s sister, is Petronella’s bosom friend:
“Jane walked up to me and slipped her arm through mine. How she managed to look exactly the same as she had before the calamity I shall never know. But then, Jane always appears to have stepped out of a band box.”
In the end, Petronella does save nearly all of the above and, in addition, rescues Mother England itself from a nefarious plot to do incalculable harm to the entire population.
As the perceptive reader will have already discerned, the novel is set in Victorian England. The style and humor of the book owe something to Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse and maybe Lemony Snicket(?). I can’t imagine that this book will enjoy the same level of popularity as wimpy kids and vampire lovers, but for a certain sort of child with a certain sort of humor (and a large vocabulary), Petronella might just fit the bill.
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One or more of these books is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own.