Avis Dolphin

illus. by Willow Dawson. 160p. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554984893; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9781554984909.
Gr 4–6—When 12-year-old Avis Dolphin alights onto the Lusitania, she asks herself, "Why can't someone write one [adventure story] about a girl? Girls like magic and adventure, too." Indeed, many a girl will identify with this inequity that Wishinsky seeks to address with this illustrated work, a genre-busting fantasy with graphic novel-type images, crossed with a work of historical fiction. The timely book follows the titular character's journey aboard the Lusitania on its ill-fated voyage, along with other historical passengers, such as her romantically obsessed guardians Hilda and Sarah, and the kindly Professor Holbourn, who befriends Avis. Avis is a lively heroine who is excited about every aspect of life on the "Lusy," and relays it all in breathless, excited monologues. Readers will be swept up in Avis's descriptions of the ship mechanics, gourmet food, and people-watching. Professor Holbourn's stories about the mythical past of his home in Scotland are represented in the book as mostly wordless graphic panels, which are lovely, but become repetitive. The biggest issue facing the book is tone—Wishinsky goes overboard with the foreshadowing, so that the clues to the Lusitania's fate are almost comical in their exuberance and overabundance, detracting from the mood and underestimating the intelligence of her audience.
VERDICT An additional purchase.

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