Book Review: THE MISSING BARBEGAZI

Thanks Kidlit Exchange and again Jolly Fish Press for the ARC of debut author HS Norup’s Middle Grade fantasy THE MISSING BARBEGAZI.

I love me some crypto stories and obscure folklore, which means I bought hook, line, and sinker the urban legend that every single story in “Western” (AKA white European) folklore has been retold a trillion times. Wrong!

Meet the barbegazi, a furry white Alpine gnome/mini Bigfoot creature that for some reason isn’t discussed much online. I guess most cryptid hunters can’t ski that well?
Eleven-year-old Tessa is still reeling from the death of her grandfather, known locally as a kook due to his past claims that he’d seen one of the fabled barbegazi. Until the day she sees Gawion while skiing off piste, and he saves her when she falls into a deep snowbank.

Gawion broke his dad’s rule not to have anything to do with humans – Papa was kind to one once 154 years ago and got locked in one of Queen Victoria’s zoos as a thanks. But Gawion also had a secret human friend (Tessa’s grandfather) who’d bring him frozen berries.

Unfortunately, a cryptid hunter/disgraced biologist at Tessa’s mom’s hotel has captured Gawion’s sister Maeg. The sociopathic Dr. Bahne will stop at nothing to keep his catch chained and save his reputation – including stage Tessa’s death.

Bahne fails in a somewhat quick though humorous and satisfying conclusion, and Tessa and Gawion get their happy ending, with the promise of a secret friendship. For the creatures’ safety, human friends of the Barbegazi are sworn to silence.

For the extra dorky reader: A Google search for barbegazi in English turned up very little information. Hmm… *rubs beardless chin* perhaps anyone who knows anything keeps it to themselves in real life?

Tessa /Gawion’s story is probably complete, but I’d definitely be around for more stories about skiing and obscure European cryptids from Norup. THE MISSING BARBEGAZI had just the right balance of adventure, magic, and pre-teen friend strife to keep me turning pages. It didn’t surprise me to learn the book, which released last fall in Europe, has already won a Red Dot award.

Words like aestivate and piste may send kids (or adults) to a dictionary. A skiier for over 30 years, perhaps I’m not the best judge, but I’d assume the narrative of some of Tessa’s races might be a little tough for a non-skiier to follow.

THE MISSING BARBEGAZI will be on shelves just in time for ski season – to be specific, Nov 12, 2019 – from Jolly Fish Press/Flux Books.

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