Those looking for enticing, fun fantasy books to offer their eight or nine-year-old child should look no further than Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist. Nathaniel is an engaging young hero, the latest member of the Fludds to take on the familial responsibility of studying and protecting "mythical" creatures, and the stories tell of fun, adventures encounters with these creatures, encountered by Nathaniel and his aunt as they travel from one mission to the next.
In the recently released fourth book of the series, The Unicorn's Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 2011, 160 pages), Nathaniel and Aunt Phil, accompanied by Nathaniel's young gremlin friend, Greasle, are summoned to the forest of Broceliande, where a unicorn is ailing (although first they must finish up the little job of transporting a water dragon to a new home). But there's another member of the Fludd family who has been dogging their steps--Obediah Fludd, whose broken from the family tradition of helping creatures. He is taking an interest in the unicorn too--a most unsavoury interest--and would do almost anything to get his hands on a copy of Aunt Phil's book of beasts. If he had that book, no mythical creature would be safe from his greed.
And in exchange, he's offered to tell Nathaniel where his parents, presumed to have died on an expedition of their own, can be found.
It's a nice emotional twist that ratchets up the intensity of the story of the sickly unicorn, and adds impetus to the on-going saga of Nathaniel's life as a young beastologist. And I especially liked that Greasle, the gremlin, gets a larger role in this one--as a young female, she's chosen by the unicorn as a friend--continuing another ongoing plot thread about whether Aunt Phil will ever fully accept her as member of the Fludd household.
Even though this is clearly continuation of the earlier stories, it can stand alone. But there's no need for that, as the three earlier books are delightful in their own right. And it's so pleasing to have a series of books to offer one's young reader when that reader tends to be picky--my own such reader (now eleven) has been enjoying these books since the first one (The Flight of the Phoenix) came out in 2009. He pounced on The Unicorn's Tale the moment it came into the house, and read it cover to cover with great pleasure.
The Unicorn's Tale, is, incidentally, an apt choice for Earth Day--there's a message (understated but very present) about the importance of conservation, and the consequences of human greed.
Here's another review at Strange and Random Happenstance