“Adventure ho!” reads the author’s inscription on the first page. Jonathan Auxier is a friend of a friend who lent me her signed copy of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes for a read. Auxier wasn’t wrong. From the first page, Peter Nimble rollicks forward through adventure with barely a missed beat along the way.
Peter Nimble is an orphan, blinded by a raven, found as a baby floating in the river by sailors, who turn him over to the town magistrates, who name him and leave him to fend for himself. He takes up with a family of cats under the porch of an alehouse until the whole lot are found by the tavern owner, scooped into a bag and tossed in the river. There Peter’s innate skills as a thief show themselves when he looses the knots and swims to safety.
And that’s in the first two pages.
Even better, this line comes at the end of it: “Until this point, you have been witness to Peter’s rather typical infancy—probably not unlike your own.”
Peter’s career as a thief takes off, and by age ten he’s well-known enough to capture the attention of those who know that goodness is not the same thing as following the law, but something much deeper and much greater altogether. His encounter with them sets him on the journey of the story – with a cursed knight, Sir Tode, as a sidekick – to find the vanished kingdom and answer the plea for help they sent out.
A giant dogfish named Frederick, thieves and criminals in deserts, unkindnesses of ravens, a king who keeps children for slave labor and makes their parents forget about them, an army of gorillas, sea serpents, and a ten-year-old princess with a temper fill in the rest of the pages of Peter’s adventure.
Auxier’s writing style is extremely clever, with comments throughout that parents will probably find as funny as their children. Comments like these and the fact that he does not shy away from portraying real violence and real evil probably skew the book slightly older than its ten-year-old protagonist, but smaller children could enjoy it being read to them. There are complicated relationships between children and adults, but in general, once all enchantments are broken, there is mutual respect and love on both sides. Peter is a delightful hero – one who does not think too highly of himself, except once, and then he finds that working without the aid of his friends is much more difficult than working with them.
The book itself is gorgeous, with cover illustrations that hint at the adventures within without giving away too much. Auxier himself drew the illustrations at the start of each chapter. The text is set in a font that’s easy to read and lovely to look at. The effort put into book design makes holding it in your hands an honor.
In the end, the reader is left with a sense that all is well and hope that perhaps, if the fancy strikes him, Jonathan Auxier could tell us more about Peter’s adventures.