The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby
Published by Allen & Unwin on 1 November 2017
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I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think – I hardly knew my parents.
Bronte Mettlestone’s parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She’s had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons – and no adventures, thank you very much.
But Bronte’s parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte’s home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.
Now, armed with only her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates – and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye…
Jaclyn Moriarty is easily one of the most talented writers to come out of Australia. Regardless of what genre she’s writing in, she always seems to produce something magical and completely original (although I must admit, the whimsical tone to her writing feels better suited to fantasy). The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is her first offering for younger readers (9-12 year olds), and Moriarty knocks it out of the park.
This may have been a fantasy novel, but it really felt like an exploration of family dynamics. Every time Bronte visits an aunt, she learns something new about her parents and the importance of family. As always, Moriarty’s characters are vividly drawn. All of the aunts have their own distinct mannerisms and characteristics, but they still feel like they are part of the same family. I liked that a point was made that Bronte had never met a lot of her aunts, or had only seen them a handful of times. In so many books, characters seem to come from big families that live on top of one another; the Mettlestones are not close, but they still care for one another in their own ways. It felt more realistic to me, and I really enjoyed this dynamic, especially as it played a big role in the ending. My favourite relationship was Bronte and Aunt Carrie, but honestly, all of the aunts were interesting and jumped off the page.
There were a lot of twists that, as a reader outside the target demographic, I could see coming; I imagine that a younger reader would be surprised and really enjoy them. The book was well-written and easy-to-follow, and the chapters were short enough that it would still be engaging for a younger reader who struggles with reading. The illustrations by Kelly Canby are the perfect accompaniment to the story. Canby’s drawings have the same whimsical tone that Moriarty’s writing has and kind of make you feel like you’re reading a fairy tale.
This book is the perfect book for young readers of fantasy (and older ones, too!), and can be read independently or together. The visits to the the aunts unfold within a larger narrative, so I think that it would make the perfect book to read in multiple sittings with your child before bed. That said, I read it in one sitting and really enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun piecing together all the clues, and ultimately found it an addictive and fun read. If your child is not quite ready for Harry Potter, this book would be the perfect story to introduce them to the fantasy genre.