Eleven year old Kathleen Perkins considers herself a scientist — a cryptozoologist, to be exact. She studies legendary animals. According to Kathleen, “legendary” just means that they don’t appear very often. (“You can hardly blame them.”)
Kathleen’s mother disappeared in a submersible while trying to find the entrance to Pellucidar, so Kathleen now lives with her orphaned cousins Perry and Brendan at her eccentric uncle’s house. Uncle Hedge, who runs a little seaside museum of strange objects, is a member of the Guild of St. George, a secret society of men and women who fight the plots of an evil genius named Dr. Hilario Frosticos. Kathleen and her cousins love Uncle Hedge but their neighbor Ms. Peckworthy, “a member of a very troublesome do-gooder society,” is trying to get the kids reassigned to their Aunt Ricketts who would probably be a more suitable guardian.
When a pale stranger and a mermaid show up looking for an old key that may be in Uncle Hedge’s museum, the three cousins and their dog are drawn into a dangerous adventure. Along the way they must contend with an island made of ice, Ms. Peckworthy, a giant skeleton, the kinds of creatures that only a cryptozoologist could love, Social Services and, of course, Dr. Hilario Frosticos.
Zeuglodon is a fun adventure story — it’s fast-paced, entertaining, and delightfully absurd. Kathleen’s charming voice (it’s written in the first person) is the star of the show. It’s impossible not to like her, to admire both her wild imagination and her desire to be a good scientist, and to appreciate her understanding that she’s writing for a skeptical audience:
“You can believe in Pellucidar or not, and I won’t blame you if you don’t. But like I said before, no one believed in Japan, either, until they got there, and then there they were.”
Perry and Brendan, who are sometimes looking over Kathleen’s shoulder as she writes, giving her help or suggestions about her style and structure, each have their own distinctive and likable personalities. The children value both their traditional and non-traditional educations and are eager to apply their knowledge and experience to their new adventure.
I was surprised at the end of Zeuglodon. I expected some things to get resolved that didn’t. I liked this mysterious but optimistic ending and I sincerely hope that James P. Blaylock will be producing further adventures for Kathleen and her cousins. Zeuglodon was a fun read. I’ve given my copy to my 13-year-old son.