The Emperor’s Ostrich, by Julie Berry, is a whimsical adventure with humor and quirky, lovable characters. While its intended audience is middle-grade readers, it will also appeal to younger readers as well as adults who are young-at-heart. Set in the Empire of Camillion, it is a fun romp through both the castle and the English countryside, and is reminiscent of both fairy and folktales of yore. Even so, this story is also both contemporary and unique in its telling.
The adventure begins when the spoiled, self-obsessed Emperor of Camillion goes missing from the castle. Soon after we are introduced to Begonia, who lives in the countryside and has lost her cow Alfalfa. Begonia, far from being a damsel in distress, embarks on a determined search to find Alfalfa. Along the way she encounters a mustard maker and a mapmaker that are really ancestral spirits in disguise – and a poetic, aptly self-defined “hopeless romantic” boy named Key. These characters, in addition to being both funny and kind, are helpful to her on her journey, even though Begonia is at first quite certain she will travel alone.
This is a story, then, of friendship and the power of kindness as much as it is about having a grand adventure. It is also about embracing differences and loving each other not in spite of, but because of them. This is also perhaps the only book in which you will find a cow and an ostrich in love. And why not? Berry is showing young readers that love is possible anywhere, between anyone – and that life is always better enjoyed with our friends. With fast-paced, witty prose, characters that jump off the page and frolicking fun, The Emperor’s Ostrich is a unique tale with a big heart sure to be enjoyed by many readers.
*I received a free copy for review from KidLit Exchange. Review also posted on Goodreads & Amazon:
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Stacie Eirich is a writer as well as an avid reader & book reviewer. She holds a Masters Degree in English Studies from Illinois State University. She has published four books of poetry and a children’s novel: Tiger Kingdom & The Book of Destiny. She lives north of New Orleans, and is currently writing her second children’s novel.