Fri
Aug 6 2010 8:48am

One children’s book without so much squid in it...being a review of Greg van Eekhout’s Kid Vs. Squid

When I was a kid, children’s books that had magic in them almost always seemed to end with the kids giving up the magic because they had earned their character growth and could be adults now. At the time, I thought this was bogus and lame, and it’s a good part of the reason I liked Oz and John Bellairs so very fiercely.

John Bellairs never made anybody give their magic up to hold down a day job.

I find that even as an adult, I am feeling a similar fierce loyalty to Greg van Eekhout’s middle-grade novel Kid Vs. Squid, despite the fact that the second-billed squid doesn’t make an appearance until very late in the novel, which seems to me a bit of false advertising.

On the other hand, I couldn’t pass up a title like Kid Vs. Squid either. So who am I to judge?

So young Thatcher is sent to stay with his somewhat questionable great-uncle Griswald at the beach over summer holidays. It’s a tourist town, and Griswald runs a museum of oceanic curiousities for the summer people.

But when Thatcher is left alone in the museum one day with a list of chores, curious occurences soon lead him into adventure: one of the museum displays is stolen, people involved in the theft may not be people at all, a vicious sea-witch’s curse is involved, and of course, there’s a mysterious girl...who may or may not have some connection to the lost continent of Atlantis.

Somehow, Thatcher must retrieve the stolen property, rescue the sea-witch’s victims, keep himself from being enslaved to the sea-witch, and not get into too much trouble with his great-uncle. And the thematic load is not all about how you need to settle down, either, and give up magic for more adult pursuits.

It’s hard to say too much more about the book without giving the game away, but I can tell you this about Kid Vs. Squid—it’s one of the most fun things ever, and I would have loved it to death when I was ten. It’s got mystery, adventure, derring-do, bathroom humor, smart boys, bold girls, Bond-esque bicycle chases (I detect a certain Better Off Dead influence in the jellyfish boys) and—eventually—a great big squid.

What more could you want?


Elizabeth Bear prefers octopuses. And does not engage in religious debates about the proper plural of octopuses, either.

10 comments
Julia Rios
1. Skogkatt
Okay, this review is ridiculously fun. I have been vaguely curious about the book for a while, having seen the title here and there, and having a certain fondness for cephalopods, generally. I think I kind of have to go get a copy now.

(octopodes)
Dave Thompson
2. DKT
It is a ridiculously fun book and I laughed out loud quite a few times while reading it.

There's a part of me that wishes I had been 10 when I read it, and there's another part of me that's glad I was an adult, because it helped remind me how much fun being a 10 year-old is.

I want an I
Dave Thompson
3. DKT
Eh, the last comment got chopped off somehow:

I want an "I Heart Los Huesos t-shirt" now!
Brian Tatosky
4. Brian Tatosky
I read this to my 5 year old twins, and while they're not the age range, they loved hearing it as much as I loved reading it to them.
Ashe Armstrong
5. AsheSaoirse
I'm in the camp that thinks the whole thing of "to be an adult, you must give up magic" is utter nonsense and quite frankly, total bullshit. Why should they be mutually exclusive?
rob mcCathy
6. roblewmac
Hear hear! I was by no means a kid when Harry potter came out but it bugged me that a whole school of wizards let a 12 year-old do all the work.
Brian Tatosky
7. ofostlic
AsheSaoirse, roblemac,

One narrative reason for magic being confined to children is that parents demonstrably don't believe in magic. If you are going to have magic and set the story in or near the modern world you need some explanation for this.

A related issue is that you need some reason for kids to be heroes, and having magic that adults don't have is a good reason. The workarounds needed for Harry Potter to be the central hero in a world-wide battle against evil illustrate the difficulties. Diane Duane works around this by having *every* wizard be the central hero in their own fight against the Big Bad.

So it's not necessary, but there are reasons why it is a common choice
Brian Tatosky
8. Angiportus
Ofostlic, thanks for the explanation-that-isn't-an-excuse. I never could believe that the magic had to go away either, from whatever entity had it.
Ashe Armstrong
9. AsheSaoirse
Sorry, I have a hard time with the parents part of that explanation given I've been parents insist for as long as they can that Santa Claus is real to their children. For a culture that loves to teach children they can be whatever they want, the hate on magic doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Elizabeth Bear
10. matociquala
Skogkatt @1:

http://randomsignal.tumblr.com/post/970046985/whats-the-plural-of-octopus-ask-the-editor

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