The Great Adventures of a Small Creature
(and his socks)
Book Review No. 17: Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy/Animal Books
Content for the Sensitive Reader: Some suspense/action typical in fantasy near the end of the book. Should be appropriate for most readers.
BookmarkedOne Rating: 8/10
This was a book I read so long ago I almost forgot reading it.
Actually, I’m not sure what made me remember it…
Wait–yes I do.
Socks. Specifically, socks on adventure.
I will attempt to explain.
Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere, the audiobook I narrated, has at least two instances where the little girl is regrettably without her shoes and socks. In rain, in mud, in vortex–you get the idea. And while I was narrating, somewhere in the back of my mind, a little shrew-sized voice piped up and said See? Always take extra socks with you on an adventure.
And then I remembered. A fabulous book.
The idea comes from Nurk himself, who, when faced with the glorious, terrifyingly beautiful unknown of adventure, makes sure he packs several pairs of socks.
It seems silly at first read…but the book proves otherwise. He really does need every last pair.
So. Lesson learned. Go on adventure, make sure you take Bilbo’s handkerchief and Nurk’s socks. Because you never know.
Who knew socks could be plot vital?
You especially never know with this book. Sometimes it seems utterly whimsical (a heroic shrew returning miss-sent mail via a snail-shell boat? Aiee!), other times it gets somewhat dark for a cute sock-wearing shrew book (Gigantic moles and poisonous mushrooms and dying dragonflies?). It’s weird and unexpected and sometimes funny.
But from beginning to end…it was totally adorable.
The plot is something like this: Nurk, a shrew, is something of a homebody. His peculiar neighbor (a salamander, if I remember correctly) is the strangest part of his life. Otherwise, he stays home, minds his own business.
Yeah. Basically the Mr. Bilbo Baggins of the shrew world. Playing “A Very Respectable Hobbit” in the background of Nurk’s little corner of the world wouldn’t be out of place (but then, doesn’t everyone have Bilbo-yness as a life goal?)
Instead of a wizard popping in for tea, Nurk is nudged firmly into adventure more indirectly–by a letter meant for someone else. Being the noble and honest shrew he is, Nurk makes a boat from an empty snail shell and sets off across the waves to find the sender of the letter and return it, so that things may go on the way they should.
Just wait. If this seems too simple and mild-mannered, prepare yourself for a dragonfly princess with purple nail polish, a gigantic mole that would probably petrify me were I shrew-size–and other things I daren’t spoil. Suffice it to say everything seemed to run the perfect balance between just too weird and absolutely charming.
I have only happy memories of this book. Despite the full ending, I wanted a sequel so badly after I read it…I think my greatest regret about this book is that I have never found one.
Seriously. If you need a break from heavy fantasy like Rothfuss or LeGuin, or want something like Avi’s A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End, go grab a copy of Nurk. Relax. Have some tea. Sit in the sunshine. Think about buying new socks (or getting someone to knit them for you, even better).
It’ll be a good day.