Charlie is just a normal kid growing up in Wales. And like all kids, he has a few problems. There are a couple of bullies that won’t leave him alone, there’s a killer goose that keeps chasing him, and his parents want to adopt a new little brother or sister. It’s a lot for one kid to deal with. Then something amazing happens. Charlie meets a kid from another world who entrusts Charlie with the last firefox. Charlie can’t even protect himself, how is he supposed to keep the little firefox safe from the deadly monster that’s chasing him? Find out in Lee Newbery’s The Last Firefox.
[Warning: My review of this book contains some spoilers!]
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Magic in modern-day Wales
Charlie is unremarkable in his own eyes. He’s a bit of a scaredy-cat with no special talents (again, his thoughts). Now his dads want to adopt a new baby. On the one hand, Charlie is ecstatic. He’s always wanted a baby brother or sister! On the other hand, he’s terrified. He can’t even stand up for himself, and now he’ll have someone else to protect. What is he going to do?
While Charlie is worrying about all this, he goes up to Bryncastell, the castle ruins that overlook his town. While he’s up there, he has an unbelievable encounter. Teg, a boy who claims to have come through a portal from another world, gives him a little fox cub and asks him to watch him for two days.
Teg tells Charlie the cub is the last firefox. Teg has stolen it from an evil king, and now the king’s monster hunter is chasing the cub. Teg wants to throw the monster off their trail, so he’s going to leave the firefox with Charlie, just for two days. Charlie is sure it’s a mistake and doesn’t want to do it, but it’s just two days, right? So he brings the firefox home with him.
But then Teg doesn’t show up. What’s more, the monster that’s tracking Cadno (Charlie’s name for the firefox) seems to have made it into Charlie’s world. Charlie is scared, no he’s terrified, but he’s not going to let Cadno get hurt. Protecting Cadno might be just what he needs to find his inner fire. Will it be enough?
The Last Firefox is a sweet adventure with cuteness at its center
Charlie is very much an everyman kid. He doesn’t excel in sports, he’s just average in school, he gets bullied and he’s a little bit timid. But he has two great friends and two loving dads. He’s sweet and he cares about those he loves. Then this little furball of chaos lands in his lap. Charlie doesn’t think he can handle Cadno but he’s not about to just give up. He leans on his friends and finds out just how strong he really is.
Caring for Cadno helps him to realize that he is a capable person after all. By the end he’s able to protect himself, Cadno, his friends, and his dads. And not by caring about himself but by caring for everyone else. The back of the book says that “you need to be brave for yourself before you can be brave for other people..” but I think that the opposite is true. Charlie can’t find the strength to stand up for himself but when the people he loves are in trouble he finds the courage to fight a literal monster! It is easier to be brave for others.
Lee Newbery wrote the perfect story for kids
Okay, so The Last Firefox isn’t exactly a riveting story for adults. But it isn’t supposed to be. This is definitely a book that is aimed at the 7 to 12 age range. And it’s perfect for that demographic! The story is exciting and fun. Charlie has problems that kids can relate to, then the fantastic gets mixed in with a firefox to make it a real adventure. And he has some real character development by the end as well. The nice thing is that the story wasn’t stupid or annoying (looking at you Captain Underpants) so this is a nice book to read with your kid. Newbery has taken the time to understand his audience, providing a thoughtful story that so many can relate to.
Laura Catalan also provides some wonderful illustrations throughout the book. Her fun black-and-white pictures range from full-page scenes to little character sketches along the margins. They all helped to increase the whimsy of the story and made me smile as I was reading. Your kids are gonna love Cadno, I know I did.
My Rating: 8/10
The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery is available now! Let us know on social media @mycoscmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on checking this novel out! And look out for our review of the sequel, The First Shadowdragon, coming soon!
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