Saturday 8 January 2022

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby (A&U Children’s) HB RRP $22.99 ISBN 9781760526368 

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Oscar, a 14-year-old Sydneysider, is busy avoiding school at the skate park when he just happens to stumble into a parallel universe. Technology is oddly old-fashioned, but that seems to be more than compensated by the magic in the air - and the elves, genies, gnomes and other fantastical creatures. When Imogen and her siblings and cousins sweep Oscar into a desperate quest to save an elven village, Oscar is faced with a dual challenge: fit into the bamboozling world of Kingdoms and Empires while figuring out just how he is going to get home.

This is a real page-turner: between alternating point-of-view and the urgent quest, there is no chance to get bored. From the very first, the reader is plunged into the disorienting experience of Oscar, and we feel very much from elsewhere along with him. Earnest Imogen and streetwise Oscar are very distinct characters, and their sections play off each other as a narrative conversation, adding a layer to the already intriguing relational dynamics between the various characters.

Oscar is pitch perfect, both in his internal and external dialogue and actions. Imogen, brusque and bossy, is interesting but not as relatable, and her formal speech pattern sometimes seems to slip. The supporting characters are also well-rounded, contributing both to the plot progression and the emotional complexity of the book.

Black-and-white pencil illustrations are dotted throughout the pages in a distinctive, modernist style. Both vignettes and whole-page scenes contribute to building the kooky atmosphere. This is echoed by a playfulness with language and narrative style, emphasising the sense of the main protagonists as both characters in the action and self-aware narrators.

This fourth instalment in the Kingdoms and Empires series needs no prior knowledge of the series to enjoy. A great read for 10- to 14-year-olds to dive into and allow themselves to be swept away.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Buzz Words Books would love to hear what you think.