First in Lija Fisher's series, The Cryptid Catcher tells the story of Clivo Wren and his amazing discovery that his father was not an eccentric archaeologist, but actually traveled around the world searching for cryptid creatures such as the Yeti. It's all a bit hard to take in, especially since his father never told him about his quest to find legendary creatures and now his father has died while away on another trip. Should Clivo believe the grouchy man who turns up at the front door and tries to send him out to finish his father's mission?
Zany characters lend the book even more energy than a hunt for the Loch Ness Monster would have on its own. There are the grumpy Douglas Chancery, flighty Aunt Pearl and her cats, the Myth Blasters - a group of teens who collect information to help pinpoint the location of various cryptids (although they don't go out looking for the creatures), and even sinister agents from Luxembourg. There are also plenty of opportunities to laugh. For instance, when he believes that an enemy agent is following him, Clivo thinks, "running before he was even in official danger didn't seem to be the bravest choice. Smartest, yes. Bravest, no."
Clivo's efforts to deal with the loss of his father (and earlier loss of his mother) have to take the backseat to the quest, but the feelings and doubts keep popping up. He frequently wonders why his parents lied to him about his father's occupation. Was it because they didn't trust him, or were they trying to keep him safe? As one of the other characters tells him, "...parents. None of them have a clue about what they're doing. and most of them flat-out stink at it. But at the end of the day, they're just trying to do their best."
Another plus is how the author makes sure to show that Clivo is not good at everything, and in fact is in remedial math classes (although he can speak 5 languages). His friend Stephanie tells him, "There are many ways to be smart, Clivo. I may be good at computers, but put me on a volleyball court and I'm dumb as a stump. Sometimes it just takes time to find out what you're good at." The kids in the story have various strengths and personality quirks, and represent some of those many ways to be smart.
A perfect middle grade novel for kids who enjoy adventure, humor, and don't mind some fantasy elements such as legendary creatures mixed in. Fans of The Imaginary Veterinary books will feel right at home with this new series.
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