Review: Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: Raincoast Books

Thursday McGillycuddy’s mother is Serendipity Smith, the fictional version of J. K. Rowling (I’d say). In other words, Thursday’s mother, also known as Serendipity Smith (pen name) is the world famous author of the Vivienne Small series. She is currently hard at work on the final Vivienne Small book and people all over the world are clamouring to get their hands on it. One day when Thursday and her dog, Baxterr, come home from school (Baxterr went to accompany Thursday on her way back), her dad, who keeps the house clean and running smoothly while also cooking delicious meals, tells that her mother may be finished with the manuscript and will surely be joining them for dinner after a long period of absence.

However, dinnertime comes and goes without any sign of Serendipity Smith. Upon further investigation, Thursday, Baxterr and her dad discover the writing room empty and the window open. Thursday decides to go find her mother and bring her back. She has no idea where to start though so on a whim she types some letters which turn into words which turn into sentences and all of a sudden, she and Baxterr are borne aloft when the words come alive. Thursday and her dog find themselves in another world where Vivienne Small is not just a fictional character but a real warm and breathing person. In this world, Thursday finds the meaning of courage, friendship and the importance of imagination.

If you liked Peter Pan, you may like this book. It has swashbuckling pirates and a very Hook-ish villain who is determined to bring an end to Vivienne Small. There is a crew of moldy pirates, a duel of rhyming couplets, dogs who are more than they appear, and a landscape that is as beautiful as Neverland. The adventure in the book has a very classic feel to it. None of the modern books where bad guys are actually good guys cloaked in misunderstanding and tragedy. Bad guys are bad and are defeated while good guys are good and always win (though there are several close calls).

What adds a different dimension to this novel is the whole fictional element to it. A sort of meta to the reading experience that I feel will be caught more by adults that younger readers. Thursday becomes the writer and she is not just writing the story (or continuation) of Vivienne Small but also living it. The library in which stories live both after being written and while they are being written is a fascinating place and I quite liked the ornery old librarian. She may have been my favourite character.

 I don’t think it has much crossover appeal though because though I, as an adult reader, was charmed at times by Finding Serendipity it did not engage me in the same way that other middle grade novels sometimes do.However, this middle grade romp will appeal to the more imaginative children and to those who like adventures. Finding Serendipity can also be used as an introduction to a writing course for young children–in fact, I think it would be a brilliant way to combine both the storytelling and the story to make children think about stories as something more than words on paper.