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Ursula Vernon
Harcourt, 131 pages

Ursula Vernon
Ursula Vernon grew up in Oregon and Arizona, went to college at Macalester College in Minnesota, and stayed there for ten years. Having moved across the country several times, she eventually settled in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where she works full-time as an artist and creator of oddities.

Ursula Vernon Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Tammy Moore

Nurk is a very small shrew with a very long name and a famous grandmother with a penchant for severed heads and adventure. Although he could do without the severed heads, Nurk has no objection in principle to the idea of adventure. It's just that he IS a very small shrew and there has never really been any opportunity to go adventuring. Not until the mysterious letter arrived.

It seems that adventure has come to Nurk.

So with nothing but a Snailboat, his grandmother's journal and some clean socks, Nurk sets off Downstream to find the mysterious letter writer. With giant carp, mysterious masked maybe-herons and a dragonfly princess it might be more adventure than one shrew can handle.

It is extremely hard to review a book that seems to made entirely of adorable and awww, especially without spoiling some of the better scenes. I could wax lyrical about Surka's journal, worry about just how disturbing the maybe-heron was or bounce over the identity of the antagonist (who was foul and evil but still made me go "aw, lookit his widdle nose") but it would be much more fun for you to go and read it for yourself.

Ursula Vernon is one of those disheartening Renaissance women who can write, draw and, when necessary, can wrangle the occasional stray turtle. Two of those talents come into play in Nurk. It is an endearing and idiosyncratic story set in an endearing and idiosyncratic world that never violates its own internal consistency. The narrative is light and frothy but leavened with occasional, effective moments of pathos. She has also illustrated the story with a series of engaging pen and ink drawings that capture the sweetness of the narrative elegantly.

Although it is certainly a book aimed at children -- I test drove it on one of my nephews who particularly liked the bad guy -- there's plenty there for adults to enjoy too. Personally I hope for a tie-in book that replicates Surka's journal.

Copyright © 2009 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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