The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Do not be deceived by the saccharine sweet cover! This wonderful little gem is a wacky mix of Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes and Jack Gantos at his bizarre best. Wealthy orphaned Petronella Arbuthnot is celebrating her sixteenth birthday with an assembly of friends. Her guardian, Augustus T. Percival, laughing widely at a joke, inadvertently swallows a flying beetle of enormous proportion. Augustus develops an insatiable appetite for entomological entities of all varieties and leaps into the shrubbery in gastronomic pursuit. Petronella, who has been eagerly anticipating her upcoming London season observes, “When one’s cherished Guardian becomes a social pariah with no aspiration to change, one must reconsider one’s personal goals.” Disastrous events follow swiftly; international guests are kidnapped, ransom notes appear, and the police suspect Augustus. Fortunately the heart of a sleuth beats beneath Petronella’s ruched shirtwaist. Aided by her best friend Jane and Jane’s splendid brother James (swoon), Petronella sets out with the bug-noshing Augustus to solve the case. I adored this book from its enticing start to the end that dangles the promise of more adventures. (Please!) First novelist Low has created a memorable set of characters in her witty and wonderfully weird first novel. This is a total delight for those of us who love something offbeat. I think we need Augustus here in Michigan for the picnic season! Bon appetit Augustus!
Cindy: First, let me say that I am not a reader of Regency Romance. I could easily confuse Georgette Heyer with a 1980s punk band lead singer. Someday I’ll read the real thing, but in the meantime, I do enjoy the spoofs like Wrede and Stevemer’s Sorcery and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot and The Grand Tour. The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone (Houghton, June 2009) is a splendid addition to the spoof canon for all the reasons Lynn lists above and will suit younger readers not quite ready for Wrede and Stevemer or the real thing. The crazy characters and wacky plot were just the anecdote I needed after a series of serious books.
Secondly, I wish you all could have been in my library when Lynn spotted this advanced reader copy in the stack that had recently arrived in the mail. “Ooooh, look at this! The uncle eats bugs. I WANT to read this!” What possesses a grown woman to respond like this? And she grouses about my love for sad books? A little online research brought up more gross photographs of entomophagy than I care to link to here, but according to the Eating Bugs website there are at least 1,462 recorded species of edible bugs, ensuring the possibility of many sequels for Petronella and Uncle Augustus, and keeping bug-loving Lynn happy. Low’s website promises that two are in the works. While we wait, you can also find the recipe for Mealworm Chocolate Chip cookies on the Eating Bugs site (they promise the mealworm flour adds a nutty flavor and extra protein!) For once, I’m glad to be dieting.