by Anna Humphrey, illus. by Kass Reich
Daniel Misumi is not pleased about his family's move from Toronto to a new town three hours away. He's left his friends, his soccer team and his old house, and he's worried that at his new school "he [won't] even know where the bathrooms [are]--let alone who to play with at recess." His new house is spooky, with "creaky floors" and "weird wallpaper" and, possibly, a ghost. On his first day in the house he slips in a puddle on the floor at the top of the stairs leading to his attic bedroom. Even after he and his parents mop it up, the puddle returns, although there's no sign of a leak in the roof. Not only that, but there are strange sounds coming from the rafters at night, a small, sad voice asking for... buttermelons?
When Daniel discovers there's a tiny talking (and weeping) bat in his room, his first reaction is to beg it not to suck his blood. "Yours said what?" the bat responds. "Blood? Yours is drinking blood? Dust-gusting!" After this brief discussion muddied with misunderstanding, the bat makes clear his dietary preferences by dive-bombing Daniel's jelly roll. "Yours gots red smoosh-fruit!" he exclaims, in his batty patois, and proceeds to devour the jelly roll, "snorffling like a pig at a trough."
The bat is lonely--"'Mine is got no bests and noooo friends'"--and not particularly quiet about it. Eventually, he tells Daniel his story: "'Mine was napping on a tree one sunny day when, out of nowheres, mine sleeping-papaya was plucked and made to plummet into a crate filled with mores papayas... which mine gobbled most hungrily. A bat journeyed many days. First in a rolling rectangle, then in the belly of a roaring beast."
Daniel does a little online research about fruit bats, aka flying foxes, aka megabats, and names his homesick new buddy Megabat. "It's almost like a superhero name," Daniel says to the bat. Megabat loves it. Daniel also discovers that Megabat's supposed homeland, "the land of Papaya Premium," is actually Borneo; "Papaya Premium" was the label on the crate in which Megabat traveled to Canada. As these details are being worked out, Daniel introduces Megabat to Star Wars and juice boxes, and a friendship is born.
Of course, friendships are often fraught with problems, and this interspecies one is no different. For starters, Daniel cannot let his parents know that he is harboring a bat from Borneo, even though he ultimately plans on finding a way to get Megabat home. And although his new neighbor Talia is on board to help with this plan, her annoying brother, Jamie, is a problem. In exchange for his silence about the secret "talking bat" situation, Talia must be his servant for a month, calling him "Grand Master Jamie of the Universe" and fetching him chips and salsa. And then there's Birdgirl. The smitten pigeon fell in love with Megabat during a misadventure in a homemade (by Jamie, naturally) trap and her affection for the bat repeatedly places her in Daniel's way. She proceeds to foil Daniel's plans to smuggle Megabat into the purse of a Borneo-bound traveler and has to be coerced to leave his side when another potential plan to get Megabat home is hatched. Things look grim, but one should never underestimate the power of a butterfly-sized bat with a drinking-straw lightsaber. Nor of friendship.
Fans of Junie B. Jones (especially her malapropisms), Amelia Bedelia and early-chapter books by Kate DiCamillo will "muchly" love the madcap adventures in Megabat, the first in Anna Humphrey (Ruby Goldberg's Bright Idea; Mission (Un)Popular; the Clara Humble series) and Kass Reich's (This Little Hamster; Hamsters Holding Hands; Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson) series. Reich's adorable graphite illustrations of Megabat tucked into Daniel's sock, striking a pose in his imaginary battle against Darth Vader or being piggybacked by Birdgirl in a wild escape from an adult waving a "'thwacky'" broom, are enough to make a bat lover of every reader. The book will also appeal to any child (or bat) who has felt lonely in a new setting. Daniel and Megabat find each other at the exact perfect time--Daniel is the new kid in town, uncertain of what his life is going to look like from now on, and Megabat has been uprooted from the only home he has ever known. But both learn that home is not necessarily one fixed location, and that friendship and love are more important than an address. When Megabat finds out that he won't be able to return to Borneo, but that he is loved by Daniel and Birdgirl, he stands tall and says, "Then Megabat is not needing the land of Papaya Premium... Megabat is home."
As they turn the final page of Megabat, readers will be relieved and excited to know there's "mores" to come in future volumes! --Emilie Coulter