Egg Marks the Spot by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Algonquin Young Readers, 2021. 9781643750064
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Format: Advance reading copy
Genre: Animal fantasy
What did you like about the book? Fussy rock expert Badger wants to replace the agate that represents the letter A on his alphabetical wall of rocks; his original agate was stolen long ago by his cousin Fisher. Skunk wants to get out of town for a few days to avoid a Sunday without the book review section of his newspaper, which is being taken each week by Mr. G. Hedgehog. Rather than confront the hedgehog, he proposes a rock-finding expedition and camping trip. Badger agrees, and after an excessive amount of preparation and overpacking, the pair sets off. Their journey is full of missteps (and delightful snacks provided by Skunk) before they arrive at Badger’s favorite Campsite #5, near the shores of Endless Lake. Badger has an unpleasant encounter with the taunting Fisher, and learns that Augusta, the Tiny Hen, has stowed away on the trip. Augusta and Skunk have a secret mission that they don’t want to share with Badger, but he follows them anyway, into a cave where they find a dinosaur egg suspended in amber. They are not the only ones who know about the egg; treasure hunter Fisher soon arrives with a work crew of rats ready to dislodge the egg from its prehistoric setting. When Fisher sets off a cave-in and Augusta inadvertently wakes the baby dinosaur, Badger has to dig deep into his knowledge of geology and zoology to outsmart his cousin, save his friends, and escape the collapsing cavern.
The clever dialogue and sophisticated humor that characterized the first book will draw readers in, as will the solid (if unconventional) bond that has developed between the two main characters. The action is very exciting, but a bit hard to follow at times, and there are equal parts genuine danger and slapstick comedy. The ARC is missing many of the illustrations by Klassen, but his trademark style certainly fits the tone of the text. The unresolved conflict between Badger and Fisher, along with the arrival of new friends and housemates, and the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the dinosaur, leave the door wide open for a 3rd installment in this series.
Anything you did not like about the book? The cute premise of the odd couple housemates and their expedition is offset by the dark character of Fisher. His villainous ways are pretty startling (hiring two feral cats as hit men, for instance) and may be upsetting for young readers who enjoy the quirky nature of the series.
To whom would you recommend this book? Readers who enjoyed the first Skunk and Badger story will welcome this new adventure, and it might be a good fit for fans of classics like The Wind in the Willows or more modern favorites like The Wild Robot.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts
Date of review: August 29, 2021