Reviews for Salamandre

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

When Kaspar’s father dies on a diving mission after his submersible goes too deep for recovery, Kaspar, who casts his father as a superhero in his comics, is bereft at his loss and no longer takes interest in drawing. To help him recover, Kaspar’s mother sends him to stay with his grandfather. Papi Jacques lives on the other side of the Veil, in a place that is ruled by the oppressive emperor, with strict rules on art and free speech. Culbard's title will leave readers feeling a direct correlation between these imaginary places and post–Cold War West and East Germany. Kaspar is a relatable tween, and all of the relationships he has with family and acquaintances are believable. This is in part due to Culbard’s richly detailed illustrations (of note are Delphine’s freckles and Mélisande’s pregnant cat). This hopeful, character-driven work of science fiction is highly accessible to a variety of readers; teens and adults are the ideal audiences but older kids may also identify with Kaspar, providing an opportunity to talk about similar real-world events.

Publishers Weekly
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Culbard (the Everything series) turns out a tour de force in this thoughtful look at sacrifice, grief, and renewal. After the disappearance of his heroic adventurer father, young artist Kasper Salamandre sets aside his drawing tools and becomes sullen and withdrawn. Unable to find joy in his artwork, he is haunted by recurring nightmares. To shake him out of his doldrums, Kasper’s mother sends him to visit his enigmatic grandfather, who lives on a seemingly tranquil estate in an oppressive state ruled by the all-powerful Emperor. “The state has eyes and ears everywhere,” his cousin warns as she explains the lack of music, art, and even flowers under the watchful eye of the secret police. But as he settles in, Kasper realizes that there is hidden joy, beauty, art, and, most of all, secrets all around him, and each day presents a new opportunity to learn and to grow. Culbard’s evocative illustrations and subtle, nuanced palette strike a dreamy balance in a coming-of-age adventure story. The result is an irresistible combination of childlike wonder and adult paranoia. (Nov.)

Library Journal
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Eleven-year-old Kasper Salamandre spends his time creating comic books in which his father is a larger-than-life hero battling monsters. But when his real-life father is killed at sea, Kasper is heartbroken and adrift. Kasper's mother arranges for him to spend a healing summer abroad with his grandfather and cousins in Montparnasse, a country controlled by an oppressive regime that has outlawed any creative expression that doesn't glorify the state. Once Kasper arrives, the plot is largely propelled by his discovery that his family is involved in secret acts of rebellion that would result in their being executed for treason if exposed. Suspenseful scenes abound as the story builds to a gripping climax, but what makes this one special is Culbard's (Brink: Book 4) wrenching portrait of a grieving boy discovering how art bolsters the spirits of its creator and of their audience, especially when all seems lost. VERDICT An incredibly moving, uplifting coming-of-age story from a creator working at the top of his ability. Not to be missed.