"A hugely inventive adventure."
—Eoin Colfer, New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series
In a world where animals are slowly fading into extinction, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes feels as if he hardly exists either. He’s been locked away in a home for troubled children and is unable to speak a word. Then one night, a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach come to help him escape, and he discovers that he can speak—to them. And the animals need him. Only Kester, with the aid of a stubborn, curious girl named Polly, can help them survive.
The animals saved Kester. But can he save them?
"When ninety-nine pigeons smash through the windows of Kester's prison and carry him North to the last of the animals…. it's a moment as thrilling as when James flies off in the Giant Peach. Highly recommended"
—The Times (UK)
“Combines a great fondness for animals with an appreciation of the freakish…. The reserved narrative tone and tender yet peculiar view of animals give this piece its own offbeat flavor.”
“Alternately somber, thrilling, and silly.”
In this offbeat semi-apocalyptic fantasy, debut novelist Torday introduces 12-year-old Kester Jaynes, a prisoner at Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children. Kester's world was turned upside down by the death of his mother six years earlier (he hasn't spoken since). The larger world is in tumult, too, wrecked by global warming and "the red-eye," which killed off most animal life and threatens humans with extinction. One day, Kester is stunned to discover he can communicate with cockroaches, pigeons, and other "varmints," who ask him for help: "*Come with us now, Kester Jaynes. Or rot here forever. The choice is yours.*" With the aid of the varmints, Kester escapes from Spectrum Hall and learns that he is the chosen savior of "the last wild," the few remaining animals on Earth. A sort of dystopian Winnie-the-Pooh, Torday's story is alternately somber, thrilling, and silly, filled with eccentric human and animal characters with distinctive voices. That includes Kester although his fellow humans see him as silent, his courage, actions, and growth speak volumes. Ages 8 12.