Review: ‘The Last Firefox’ by Lee Newbery (illust. Laura Catalan)

[ID: ‘Book Reviews’ and ‘Sabrina @ Notes From a Paper Plane Nomad’ in lilac and yellow text on a space-themed background.]
…I turn slowly.
The head of the Grendilock is peering back through the curtain of ivy. I can see myself reflected in the empty blackness of its insect eyes.
I look afraid.

Rating:

4.8/5 paper planes

What’s This Book About?

Genre: Children’s/Middle-Grade Fantasy; Contemporary Fantasy; Adventure; LGBTQ+; Animals
Publication: 3 March 2022
Pages: 304 (paperback)

Synopsis: Between bullies at school and changes at home, Charlie Challinor finds life a bit scary. And when he’s made guardian of a furry fox cub called Cadno, things get a whole lot scarier.

Because Cadno isn’t just any fox: he’s a firefox – the only one of his kind – and a sinister hunter from another world is on his trail.

Swept up into an unexpected adventure to protect his flammable friend, Charlie’s going to need to find the bravery he never thought he had, if he’s going to save the last firefox…

Content warnings (highlight to see): bullying; mild violence; one instance of homophobic microaggression (calling same-sex parents ‘guardians’)

Purchase ‘The Last Firefox’ here through my Bookshop.org storefront(This is my affiliate link, so if you order through this you’ll be supporting me, my blog – and indie bookshops! – at no extra cost to you.)

What I Thought:

This was super fun to read and really heartwarming!

I really enjoyed reading the bonds between characters: family, friends and of course between Charlie and Cadno. I also loved how Charlie having two dads was so positively normalised – I’m glad children (and anyone reading children’s books) now get to read stories like these! It’s so important for us to see positive, casual representation of different families. The friendships were all so funny and sweet, and I loved how they stood up for each other against bullies and beasts. It made me nostalgic for chilled hangouts with friends and their pets – though of course none were little fireballs like Cadno!

Onto Cadno – what a scene stealer. Completely adorable from the tips of his ears to the end of his tail, in physical appearance, personality and behaviour. He’s so brave and affectionate. If you like animals I’d definitely recommend this book!

The illustrations were super cute too, and for once this eARC was formatted properly for Kindle so the illustrations showed up as they should Honestly, this was THE BEST formatted ARC I have ever read on my Kindle. I was so happy that I could actually toggle between chapters with my Kindle button like a normal book! It’s a small thing, but helps so much with the reading experience so I can properly appreciate Newbery and Catalan’s hard work.

The fantasy elements were done well, with the world of Fargone built just enough to make sense but without overwhelming the main plot set in regular real-world Wales. I did want to know more about Teg, as he shows up so briefly but his role is so integral to the story. (A Teg/Fargone spin-off sequel? I’m intrigued by the world!)

This book was really funny too from the very first line, with distinct characters, a well-paced and believable plot, and I could really feel the action scenes too (the train!! The castle scene!! My heart!!). I also found it so funny that one of Charlie’s dads is a firefighter and it made for some great humour and plot points. The penny-cog red herring-ed me a bit, and because I was tense about it, that made it even creepier to watch how the clues about the antagonist gradually build up.

‘The Last Firefox’ is a truly impressive and and entertaining debut! I’m excited to see what Newbery writes next, and thanks to this lovely book I’ve now discovered a great new artist to follow.

Thank you to NetGalley and Puffin Books for an eARC for an honest review.

Thanks for reading! Have you read ‘The Last Firefox’ or is it on your TBR? Do you enjoy illustrated books? I also heard that ‘The Last Firefox’ has been chosen as Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month – and they’re running an Instagram giveaway for the Waterstones special edition (closes 13 March, UK entrants only)! As always, let me know any thoughts below!

2 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Last Firefox’ by Lee Newbery (illust. Laura Catalan)

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