Friday 4 September 2009

The Undrowned Child – Michelle Lovric

What’s in a name ? Quite a lot really, when your name turns out to be Teodora-of-Sad-Memory and everyone calls you the Undrowned Child, destined to save the dying city of Venice. The beautiful city is under attack from the fearsome ghostly traitor of the dark past, “Il Traditore”, who has returned from beyond the grave, along with his monstrous allies, to wreak his revenge and destroy the city he once lived in long ago.

We join Teo in her journey of self-discovery, as she goes "between the linings", becoming part human - part ghostly invisible child, unlocking the secrets of her own past and destiny, along with those of the city she must save. She enlists the help of Renzo, the Studious Son of the old prophecy, and together they embark on an epic journey, peopled with strange mystical and magical creatures who help them on their way. I particularly love the curry-quaffing mermaids who converse entirely in sailor-speak punctuated with archaic oaths !

The book tells an adventure of epic proportions, slightly reminiscent of Narnia, bringing together all the forces of good and evil for a final heroic battle. The story incorporates a number of wholesome values, such as friendship, solidarity, courage, perseverance, self-sacrifice. It also explores some other characteristics, evoking both sides of the coin, for example vanity (Maria is overly-vain and is transformed into an ugly dwarf whereas Teo is gently chided into taking more care over her appearance), patriotism (Renzo will courageously defend his city whatever the cost, but he also comes to realise that his instant dismissal of Teo as a non-Venetian is purely based on false racist stereotypes) and loyalty (many characters, including Teo and Renzo, are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend their friends and allies, but Teo also learns the hard way that her naively blind trust of and loyalty to Maria could have been her – and the whole city’s -downfall ).

I think this has the potential to be made into an absolutely brilliant film. It ticks all the right boxes, offering the suspense, the adventure, the epic battles, the fantastical creatures, the humour, the well known landscapes. It could be a crazy mixture of Harry Potter, The Little Mermaid and Cloverfield ! I actually wonder if it would have more success and reach a wider audience as a film, because although I loved reading it as an adult, I did wonder at times if it was a bit too ambitious in length and literary style for the target audience of children and teenagers.

As a teacher, I also love the section at the end that explains which elements really exist or existed in Venice and Venetian history and which were purely invented. Used along with the map at the start of the book, there is scope for some great class projectwork here.

star rating : 4,5/5

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Orion Children's Books (2 Jul 2009)
ISBN-10: 1842557025
ISBN-13: 978-1842557020


  1. Great review. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Thank you Cheryl - a great review and an even better comment from the author !!
    I'll look out for a copy of this book.

  3. oops, I accidentally deleted my last comment, sorry !

    Here we go again ! ...

    oooh a reply from the author, Michelle Lovric :

    "I was thrilled to see how you really appreciated the points I was trying to make about friendship, snobbery and sacrifice. It makes it, frankly, all worthwhile, when a reader not only penetrates the book but also lets the writer know. It’s a lonely business and feedback is so much valued. Especially when it’s so nice!"

    Awwww not only a lovely book but a lovely writer too ! Thanks Michelle !

  4. Oooh exciting news from Michelle Lovric - The sequel is due out next year and will be called The Mourning Emporium. Teo and Renzo end up aboard a floating orphanage that sails to London.

    Can't wait to read it !!


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