In 15-year-old Sébastien Bourbeau’s first book, a komodo dragon discovers his purpose by time traveling.
In the foreword, Bourbeau’s grandmother explains that the book is a work of experimental fiction and defines the genre. Next, the author introduces himself and speaks directly to readers in a lively way, asserting: “Imagination/belongs to all of/us,/especially kids!/Use it or Lose it!”
The story begins with the birth of a komodo dragon, who talks first to an affable eagle. The eagle names him “Squeak” and warns him about predators. Eager to know his purpose and the meaning of life, he then meets a lion, who directs him to find the wise, venerated Raven, suggesting that Fish might know the bird’s whereabouts. But when Squeak questions Fish, the creature snaps: “What? Are you crazy? This flying thing will make a snack out of you so fast that you will never know what hit you.”
This first part is marked by fast and witty dialogue. Unfortunately, the story slows considerably when Squeak finds Raven. Here, Raven explains that she will show Squeak the meaning of life, taking Squeak on time-travel adventures and picking up Max, a human, along the way. Most of this narrative is devoted to Squeak and Max’s efforts to learn magic and telepathy; it’s unclear why they need these skills, and with scant action, the story lags.
There’s a wonderfully inventive and unexpected twist to the ending, and graphics, photos, sudden page breaks, and changing typefaces and fonts lend the book an energetic dynamic. Throughout, Bourbeau humorously breaks the fourth wall, addressing his readers and characters. Likewise, a character remarks about Bourbeau: “I believe that maybe, just maybe, the author is struggling with some aspects of his story.”
Bourbeau discloses that the book is currently under revision. This is good news, as tightening is needed in the time-travel scenes to draw a larger audience. Nonetheless, readers will be watching for more from this imaginative and humorous young writer.