SPINELESS, by Samantha San Miguel, Union Square Kids, June 7, 2022, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Three young adventurers set out to save a new species of octopus in Samantha San Miguel’s debut middle-grade novel Spineless.
When his asthma lands him at a health resort in the wilds of Gilded Age South Florida, 12-year-old Algie Emsworth is over the moon. The scientific treasure trove of unexplored swamps may launch his dream career as a naturalist.
But even Algie is startled when he happens upon a brand-new species and her brood in the karst springs surrounding the resort. Algie quickly realizes he must keep his discovery a secret: a famous collector of exotic animals is also staying at the hotel, and the new species is threatened by his very presence.
An apparent curse has also descended upon the hotel, bringing with it a deadly red tide. But when the pool starts filling with ink and guests start getting mysterious, sucker-shaped wounds, Algie must pluck up his courage to find the truth about the goings-on at the grand hotel — and save the new species from destruction. —Synopsis provided by Union Square Kids
Spineless is set during the Gilded Age (late 1800s). It was a time of great economic growth, industrial and technological advances, and scientific discoveries. And it’s against this backdrop that Algie makes his great discovery. With the help of Frankie and Lulu, daughters of the Hotel Paraiso owner, Algie not only learns about the world around him, but about his family, as well.
From the first chapter, it’s clear that Spineless is going to be a grand adventure. You’re not even 20 pages in before Algie’s getting into trouble, and oh does he get into some delightful trouble! As Algie ventures further out, he learns that he’s stronger than he thought. Frankie and Lulu are endearing sidekicks that help this story feel full and vibrant.
Author Samantha San Miguel’s writing is smooth and inviting. Her excellent world-building skills drop you right into the Floridian swamps. You can practically feel the humidity roll over you as Algie and his friends explore. Miguel’s strong pacing emphasizes certain plot twists and leaves you wanting for more.
Full of adventure and characters you want to root for, Spineless is a fantastic option for summer reading.
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