Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite
There is a new literary force in the world of children's books. In her first children's novel, author Michelle Lovric has written The Undrowned Child, a preteen book which will also appeal to the imagination of older children and adults. Eleven-year-old Teodora "Teo" Gasperin has always had a longing to go to Venice, Italy. She lives in Naples with her adoptive parents who are scientists. Teo finally realizes her dream when her parents go to a convention in Venice. While there, Teo goes to a book store and is rendered unconscious when a book falls on her head. We know immediately that this was not a mistake. The Keys to the Sacred City is a very special book intended only for the eyes of Teo. It leads her to the hospital where many strange events begin to occur, the least of which is her escape from the hospital and her entrance to the world "between the Linings."
While struggling to make sense of what appears to be fantasy, Teo happens upon a Venetian boy named Renzo. He also is a subject of the strange book which Teo carries with her at all times. The messages in the book lead Teo and Renzo to discover that they are the keys to protecting the ancient city of Venice from total destruction by a murderous traitor who has come to seek revenge centuries after his death.
The visual images in this book are stunning. It is set primarily in the water, and quite naturally, sea creatures abound. Ghosts are also plentiful; some are evil and some are saviors. Their respective roles will leave readers guessing as to their motivation toward destruction or redemption. This is a powerful and thoroughly enjoyable book, and the reader is kept hoping that The Undrowned Child is but the first in a series.