Today we have yet another book that my son initially turned his nose up at but ultimately really ended up enjoying. The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions has quickly proven itself to be a hit! A true mystery, it’s also a bit creepy at times, which drew him right in. Centered around the fast forming friendship between a trio of night dwelling animals, this first book in a series of three by Tracey Hecht has a great blend of chills and thrills.
Our story quickly brings together three nocturnal animals as they seek to solve a series of mysterious disappearances plaguing their environment. Dawn is a cunning but kindly fox who becomes the de facto leader of the team. Tobin is a sweet but measured pangolin, often quiet but taking in all that is happening around him. Bismark, on the other hand, is a proud marsupial. A pint sized sugar glider, who has an immediate crush on Dawn and no end to his machismo.
With a spate of unsolved abductions only increasing in number, can this trio of fast friends, along with the help of other animals they meet along the way, save the missing animals before someone is hurt? Birds, canines, rodents… there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who is taken. What is the motive? Where should the team even begin to look for clues?
The trio soon add a quartet of silly bats to the mix, who wholeheartedly enjoy ribbing Bismark by referring to him as a rodent and a flying squirrel. They claim that their ability to utilize sonar is on the fritz, which leads to them walking along with the others most of the time. Along the way they join forces with Cora, a worried wombat whose brother has mysteriously vanished. Cora’s skill for digging is matched only by her determination when they team happens upon a hidden lair.
An unlikely alliance is formed when childhood friends Dawn and Ciro agree to join forces in pursuit of the missing animals. Coyotes Ciro and his comrades Ajax and Julian have their own reasons for joining the quest, specifically to locate a coyote named Audrey. After encountering a pair of kiwi birds who provide the team with a clue to investigate Patterson Pond. At the watering hole, they spy a creature who at first tries to elude them. Once it’s clear he’s unable to hide, the tiny animal reveals himself to be a jerboa by the name of Jerry. Since I had to look it up myself, a jerboa is a hopping rodent found in parts of Asia, northern Africa and the Middle East. They get around much like a kangaroo but they’re very small, perhaps the same of a guinea pig.
Okay, now that you have a picture of Jerry in your head, let’s just say that despite his diminutive stature and stammering voice, there’s something about him that the other animals don’t trust. They decide to keep him bound so he can’t escape, just in case he has something to do with the disappearances. He seems super shady to the whole squad – that is, to everyone except Bismark. In fact, Bismark goes as far as to brag that if he were abducted, he’d convince the others that he should be in charge. Yes, he’d really whip the whole operation into shape, get them organized and what not.
Wouldn’t you know, shortly after Bismark’s boasting, there is a disturbance in the forest, allowing Jerry time to escape his captors’ bindings… and no long after, Bismark vanishes, too! The gang is now even more steadfastly committed to finding the missing animals, especially since they’re now certain they know their culprit. But Jerry is so tiny and timid; there’s absolutely no way he can be the ringleader of the heist… right?
I mentioned that this book can be a bit creepy at times. I suspect that this is partly due to how I read it, knowing that my son will respond better if I do so. The specter of the nighttime setting also lends itself to feel slightly ominous. At a time when most of us are tucked up safe in our beds, these animals are on the prowl, desperate to save others from what seems to be a terrible fate. Whether investigating a river glowing an odd color green, checking out a coyote den or charging headlong into an underwater cave, this rag-tag group has moxie to spare!
There’s also a real sense of the unknown, in terms of why the missing animals have been abducted in the first place. This kept me in the dark as well, long past when I would have figured out the ploy in other children’s books. If you’re like me, you’ll spend a decent portion of your day wondering what the significance of ‘the game’ is that the captured animals are being forced to play and even more so, why they’re being made to play it.
Coming in at 232 pages, The Mysterious Abductions took us about a week to finish through nightly bedtime readings. It would be a great choice for independent readers who aren’t daunted by a larger book. Because my son is a fan of this first installment, I suspect we’ll plow through the whole series before moving on to a new book. With that in mind, check back next week to find out what we thought of the second book in the series, The Nocturnals: The Ominous Eye.