Flotsam: David Wiesner
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle: Catherine Webb

The 7 Professors of the Far North: John Fardell

The 7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell book is pure, escapist fun, perfect for older elementary school kids looking for a spy adventure. Originally published in England, the book does contain some British terminology, but nothing that will unfamiliar to Harry Potter fans. The story begins when Sam's parents send him to spend his vacation week with their old friend Professor Ampersand. Eleven-year-old Sam quickly becomes friends with the professor's great-niece and nephew, Zara and Ben, and finds the professor unusual, but wonderful. Professor Ampersand and Sam share a love of scientific inventions (automatic cooking machines, for example, and a motorcycle with a three-passenger enclosed sidecar). Here's a passage from when Sam first visits the professor's house:

The professor was right, Sam decided. He did feel at home here. There was something about the sparkle of the fairy lights reflecting magically on glass test tubes; something about the warm glow of the lamps casting mysterious shadows of still more mysterious inventions; something that made Sam's stomach tingle the way it had when he'd first breathed in the smell of the motorbike and sidecar.

Sam doesn't get much time to enjoy the professor's house, however. His first night is interrupted by the arrival of a colleague of the professor's, Eric Gauntraker, exhausted and ill and bearing a mysterious message. The children learn that the two professors were part of a team of "Seven Professors of the Far North", founding members of a university on the remote, icy island country of Nordbergen. Before the university could really get off the ground, one of their members, Professor Murdo, betrayed the team, and the local community, and destroyed the university. And now, years later, Murdo has reappeared on the island. Professors Ampersand and Gauntraker convene their other four colleagues to discuss a plan of action. Before they can get very far, however, all six professors are kidnapped by mysterious intruders.

The children are left on their own, hidden away upstairs with a clue that the professors have left them. And, being intrepid and loyal children, they set out to search for, and rescue, the professors. They discover a hidden means of transportation up to the far north (it's very cool!) and make a few friends along the way. They also, with the help of another child who has been kidnapped by Professor Murdo, uncover Murdo's heinous plot, and encounter many dangers. None of it is very plausible. But it is suspenseful, fun, fast-paced, and filled with likable characters. Personally, I can't wait to read the sequel, The Flight of the Silver Turtle.

Book: The 7 Professors of the Far North
Author: John Fardell
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (American edition, originally published in the UK by Faber and Faber)
Original Publication Date: October 2004
Pages: 144
Age Range: 9-12
Source of Book: Bought it in paperback, at an airport, somewhere, after reading a review by Camille at Book Moot.
Other Blog Reviews: Mister K Reads, Book Moot, Roselle Public Library Kid's World

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.