Mabby the Squirrel's Guide to Flying
by Matthew Claybrook
Versaria Publishing

"There is no talent, no special factors, no tricks, no magic. There is only passion. Caring or not caring. That is all."

Hidden in the trees, Hesperia is home to a society of flying squirrels. Dorma Dabby is one of these squirrels. Although he is poor and doesn’t fit in at flying school, Dorma knows he can be a great flyer and has the heart to prove it. The story follows Dorma as he grows up, falls in love with, and marries a girl considered “infirm” because she is different than others. Together they have a child. Despite some misfortune, he does his best to raise Mabby, his unique son who takes after his mother. What he doesn’t know is that there is someone in Hesperia plotting against them all, and this traitor enlists the aid of Morgart Wingless, a sinister black cat with its own plans.

Reminiscent of Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, Claybrook’s story is a rousing animal adventure. The villain is well-written, and his motives make him believable. Claybrook skillfully connects the villain’s motives with the secret society of Hesperia’s outcast protectors: the Guardians. These Guardians have unique personalities of their own, and the story, which develops slowly and deliberately, really picks up speed once they are introduced. As the villain’s plans begin taking shape, the danger to Hesperia, and to Dorma, Mabby, and the Guardians, appears convincingly dire.

This is an imaginative tale with murder and intrigue, jealousy, love and loss, moral lessons, and aerial adventures. The writing is playful, sometimes too much so, and the vocabulary will be demanding for the young audience it will attract. Adults will be more delighted by the language. The story hits its stride, and Claybrook’s writing is at its best, when the plans have all been laid and the action takes over.

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