Bland by name but certainly not by nature, Kara LaReau’s latest is a whole load of fun. Prepare to laugh out loud!
Jaundice and Kale Bland live contentedly comfortable lives, full of carefully observed routines and simple pleasures like watching grass grow and reading Kale’s dictionary. They spend their days doing chores and darning socks to pay for the basket of basic groceries that is delivered from the shop in Dullsville each week, while they patiently wait for their parents to return from an errand that they left on several years before.
When the girls are kidnapped by the deliciously nasty pirate captain Deadeye Delilah, however, and find themselves trapped on board the female-crewed Jolly Regina, they are pleasantly surprised to discover that they are more than capable of handling the type of fearsome adventure that they’ve been so determinedly avoiding.
This is one of funniest, smartest, and sweetest stories that I’ve come across in years. LaReau’s wit and cutlass-sharp writing had me laughing out loud from page one. Her skill with names rivals Cressida Cowell’s, and the raucous cast of misfit characters that she assembles has me incredibly excited for the next book in this series.
The plot whizzes along from one frightening predicament to the next, playing with genre expectations while also delivering a satisfying conclusion to what – unfortunately for Jaundice and Kale – is set to be the first of many adventures.
Hill’s lively illustrations perfectly capture the contrast between the Blands’ nondescript home life and the chaos of living on the high seas, and the subtle work that she does in revealing the sisters’ understated but heartfelt responses to that chaos helps ensure they are fully formed characters, instead of slipping into caricature.
There’s an obvious comparison to be drawn between the Unintentional Adventures and A Series of Unfortunate Events. This book will certainly appeal to fans of that series, and to readers who enjoy Roald Dahl’s nastiest characters.
However, despite an extended conversation about the finer details of how Delilah will execute the sisters for attempted mutiny, there’s a sweetness and sincerity to LaReau’s world that helps set it apart.
She has also produced an ode to introverts everywhere, with important insights into the sometimes-fuzzy line between shutting yourself off from the world and creating healthy boundaries, and the value of defining happiness on your own terms.
If you’re someone who understands the appeal of occasionally staying in with a nice cheese sandwich and a craft project, then this book is for you. Middle-graders will be able to read it for themselves, but some younger children may also enjoy having it read to them.
- Author: Kara LaReau
- Illustrator: Jen Hill
- ISBN: 9781419721366
- Publisher: Amulet Books
- Age range: 9-12 years