Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage (Penguin Random House, January 14, 2020)
What it’s about:
Ada Ru finally thought her parents were going to agree to a Fitzhugh family vacation in Disney World the summer before sixth grade, until her father announces he’s taking a teaching position in Scotland, and moving the family there for the entire summer.
Ada Ru is anything but happy. She doesn’t like their new home, she hates haggis, and she certainly doesn’t like the idea that she will be away from her best friend all summer. To top it all off, there is said to be a monster in the lake near their house!
That’s when she meets Hamish Bean Tibby, Hammy Bean for short, captain of the Nessie Quest Monster Chaser boat tour. He knows everything there is to know about the fabled Loch Ness Monster and Scotland. But as the two unlikely friends embark on an epic adventure to spot the lake monster, they end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined.
“Words may seem innocent enough, but I’m here to tell you that they’re a way bigger deal than most people know.
They are so powerful, in fact, that they can change you in a single, solitary second.”
The Mafioso’s Thoughts:
What a great idea for a middle grade novel! It’s a totally fish-out-of-water (pun intended) caper, set on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Ness in Scotland, with a delightful cast of characters.
Adelaide Ru Fitzhugh (nicknames include Ada Ru, Ru, Denver etc.) is the character telling the story. She’s twelve, lives in Denver, and wants to spend the summer at Disney World. Instead, she gets to accompany her parents to her father’s ancestral Scotland, where they are spending the summer at a former monastery. Ada Ru is initially determined not to have a good time at all, but she soon gets herself involved with a couple of other kids, one of whom—Hamish Bean Tibby, aka Hammy Bean—has a mission to be part of the official race to find the whereabouts of the loch’s famous monster, Nessie.
Hammy Bean is eccentric and singularly focused on being taken seriously as a Nessie sleuth. He is also blind, which is a salient part of the story. (In the afterword, we learn that Melissa Savage’s mother is also blind, having developed retinitis pigmentosa as a young woman.) Hammy Bean often thinks himself invisible and feels he is friendless (there is also a subplot about his parents, about whom he feels he has to tell tall tales.) Ada Ru and another friend, a guitar-playing American named Dax (he of the seaweed green eyes and one-lipped smile, who is fast becoming Ada Ru’s crush) become a trio of fast friends, with very believable conflicts and adventures.
I raced through this novel, enjoying the characters and the Scottish setting. In keeping with my usual views of parents in middle grade, I was delighted that Ada Ru’s father and mother were together, and were nurturing without being overbearing. At times, the Scottish phrases were a bit much (does a ten-year-old Scottish boy really say “tatty bye”?) but Hammy Bean’s pluck won me over. I was as sad to see this story end as Ada Ru was to leave for home—and am hoping there may be a sequel. But, even if it is only to be a stand-alone novel, I highly recommend Melissa Savage’s writing. (Once you read this one, go back and read Lemons, which I reviewed in May 2017!) As Ada Ru would say, Melissa Savage's writing has “pop.”
About the Author:
Melissa D. Savage is the author of Lemons, The Truth About Martians, and Nessie Quest. She is currently working on her fourth middle grade book, Karma Moon Ghost Hunter, to be released Spring of 2021.