"Readers will not be able to resist smart, quirky Evangeline as she unicycles her way through yet another wild tale. Original and fun." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS When a letter marked URGENT arrives at Evangeline Mudd's bungalow, she is reminded of a promise she needs to keep: to set free the animals at Mudd's Marvelous Minks. Going undercover as a newspaper reporter, and with the help of Alexy Alexy, the world's highest-jumping dancer, the spirited heroine is back to join the fight for animal rights in a funny, fast-paced, whimsically illustrated novel.
I wonder if you can imagine how Evangeline Mudd felt on the day this story begins. After all, not so long ago, she had been whisked through a jungle in the arms of a four-hundred-pound ape. She'd rubbed noses with a headhunter. Why, she had even broken the Law of the Jungle. But now all that was over. Now she was home, safe and sound with her parents at their cozy bungalow in New England.
It wouldn't be fair to say that Evangeline was unhappy. After all, she had spent most of her time away wishing that she could be home. It's just that, well, now she had a great deal in common with those kids in countries where parents give them slices of pineapple sprinkled in red-hot chili pepper.
The first time those kids have that snack, their eyes practically bug out of their heads. Their faces turn pink, then maroon, and then a lovely shade of ver-milion. Tears stream from their eyes. "Call a doctor!" they holler as they run in circles, looking for buckets of water to dunk their heads in.
"Call the police! Call the fire department!"
But then, after the hullabaloo has died down and the pineapple is gone, and the kids are back to normal, the strangest thing happens. "Please," the kids say to their parents, "give us more."
Yes, Evangeline was very much like those children. In other words, she had had one adventure, and she was dying to have another.
On the afternoon in question, the sunlight was filtering through the canopy of the trees, dappling the leaves in a way that made them seem like the feathers of a fantastic bird. Evangeline was brachiating, hand over hand, in a stand of maples that grew behind the cozy bungalow. (Brachiating, by the way, is how monkeys and apes getaround in this world - by swinging from one branch to another. Evangeline was an expert brachiator.)
This is terrific, she thought as she reached for a branch just over her head. But it would be so much better if I were being chased by a gorilla.
She was just about to do a double flip when she heard her mother calling from below.
Magdalena's voice was such that no matter how loudly she spoke, she seemed to be reciting the sweetest poetry. This was especially true when she was speaking to Evangeline.
"Perhaps you'd better come down now, dear. The mail has just arrived. There's a letter for you."
A letter! Evangeline landed on the next limb with both feet. Hugging the maple's smooth trunk as if it were a long-lost friend, she scrambled her way to the ground.
The letter could be from only one person. Dr. Aphrodite Pikkaflee, the world's most famous primatologist and the very person with whom Evangeline had had her adventure in the jungle! Dr. Pikkaflee had already written Evangeline several letters telling her of the progress she was making with the jungle school she had started.
Evangeline opened her arms as wide as she could and ran to her mother. Her intention, naturally, was to hug the woman. But this wasn't as easy as you might think. At present, Magdalena was as round as a beach ball. Evangeline would have a brother or sister very soon.
"Where's the letter from Dr. Pikkaflee?" Evangeline asked, her arms encircling what they could of her mother's generous middle.
"It's on the kitchen table, darling. Right next to the gooseberry jam."
Magdalena picked at her daughter's scalp exactly the way a golden-haired ape mother might do.
Evangeline letgo of Magdalena and ran toward the house.
"But the letter isn't from Dr. Pikkaflee, dear," her mother called out.
Evangeline stopped in her tracks. If it wasn't from Dr. Aphrodite Pikkaflee, then who could it be from? Evangeline wasn't the kind of girl who got a lot of letters. After all, she was only ten years old.
She turned back to her mother, who had plunked herself down in the grass at the base of the trees.
"The return address says Eversharp," Magdalena said. A hummingbird flew around her head, momentarily mistaking her reddish curls for a bouquet of snapdragons. "Miss B. Eversharp."
Evangeline wracked her brain.
"But I've never heard of someone named B. Eversharp," she said at last.
"Are you sure?" her mother asked, smiling at the hummingbird. "She certainly seems to have heard of you, because on the back of the letter, B. Eversharp has written urgent in big black letters and has punctuated it with three exclamation points."
At this, the hummingbird zoomed up into the trees.
Now, if you ever get a letter from a stranger marked urgent, your heart should start to speed up a bit because urgent usually means one of two things. One: You owe someone a great deal of money, and she wants you to pay it back as soon as possible.
As far as she knew, Evangeline didn't owe any money, except five cents to the local library for a book she had returned one day late. She couldn't imagine that the librarian would send her a letter with urgent written on the back, and certainly not urgent followed by three exclamation points. Besides, the librarian's name was Emanuel Bopp, not Miss B. Eversharp.
That meant that this was the second kind of urgent, the kindwhere someone is in terrible trouble and needs help. And naturally, if that kind of urgent is written in big black letters and is followed by not one but three exclamation points, well, then, it probably means that you must take action immediately.
Evangeline turned toward the house and ran as if she were being chased by a gorilla, for action is a word that is very closely related to another, and that word, of course, is adventure.
EVANGELINE MUDD AND THE GREAT MINK ESCAPADE by David Elliott, illustrated by Andrea Wesson. Text copyright (c) 2006 by David Elliott. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA 02140.