I discovered that I missed this book when it came out last fall, and finally got around to it this year.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2018. 978-1338455843
Ten-year-old Bronte (who is shown as white) has been raised by her strict Aunt Isabelle and friendly Butler since her parents stepped out for a bit a few years ago and never returned. Then, they receive a telegram saying that her parents have been killed by pirates. (Telegrams coexisting with pirates traveling by sailing ship are an early sign of the craziness of the book.) Then, Bronte is read the will. It’s stitched around with fairy cross stitch – meaning that her village will be destroyed if she doesn’t follow the instructions exactly. Bronte must travel alone to visit each of her ten other aunts, with specified gifts, following detailed instructions that tell her exactly how to do it and how long to spend on it.
Some aunts are kindly, some fun, and some decidedly unfriendly. In some places, Bronte saves the day, and in others she has just a visit. Two of her aunts run a cruise ship (still powered by sail), and one is a rock star who’s been elected queen and runs magical concerts on the palace lawn every evening. Bronte makes a few friends along the way, and come to think that there might be some meaning behind her travels, something to do with the extremely secretive Whispering Kingdom. Like Moriarty’s Colors of Madeleine trilogy (which I re-listened to while reading this in print), this is full of weirdness and humor, at the same time as the characters are trying to prevent truly horrible things from happening. It was really delightful, and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel, The Whispering Wars, which (thanks to Rockin’ Librarian!) I know just came out here in the US.