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Book review: 'The Emperor's Ostrich' is a quirky, fun read full of unique characters

"THE EMPEROR'S OSTRICH," by Julie Berry, Roaring Brook Press, $16.99, 276 pages (f) (ages 9 and up)

Julie Berry weaves a fairy tale set in a fictional eastern land in "The Emperor's Ostrich," which is a 2017 Whitney Award finalist in the middle grade category. The awards honor authors who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The emperor of Camellion is a spoiled adolescent who can't seem to do anything for himself, much less run a country. When he goes missing, an evil plot is set into motion that has the potential to ruin the residents of the empire.

Begonia's cow runs away and her mother sends her to find it. But the expected short jaunt to track it down results in a three-day journey full of hilarity, mistaken identity and unlikely love.

Begonia meets Key, a self-proclaimed rescuer of damsels in distress, and Lumi, a compulsive complainer in possession of a love-struck ostrich. Begonia and her new "friends" meet trouble at every turn as she tries to get her besotted cow to go back home with her. But when Lumi is arrested by imperial guards, fragile loyalties are tested. Begonia and Key must thwart a plan to overthrow the new chancellor before they all end up in the darkest of dungeons for the rest of their lives. And all this is thanks to the meddling of a couple of long-deceased ancestors.

"The Emperor's Ostrich" is a delightfully fun read, full of well-developed characters with imaginative quirks and tendencies that will make readers of all ages laugh out loud. The story also has several thought-provoking themes that include kindness, friendship, responsibility and personal integrity. In addition, the story explores the theme of ancestors watching over posterity who are still alive.

"The Emperor's Ostrich" has no violence, no profanity and no sexual content.

Julie Berry has written eight middle grade novels and two for young adults, which have both won various awards and honors. She lives in Southern California with her husband and four sons.

Megan Jensen is a BYU graduate, mom, writer and avid traveler. Find her at