Author: Ethan Furman
Publisher: Stone Mountain Publishing
Perhaps I should have paid more attention in my Latin classes as I have to admit that I never heard of the term nubivagants, which is the title of Ethan Furman's debut middle-grade novel. Apparently, it means wandering or passing through the clouds and its derivation is from the Latin, nubes (cloud) and vagant (wandering). You are probably wondering what does this have to do with Furman's novel? Well, if you craft a novel with an innovative style behind the enticement of an intriguing title and throw in a youngster who has the tendency to defy the law of gravity, you have the making of quite an alluring yarn.
Furman's principal character, Matthew Mitchell is no average child. One week after his birth, his parents, Daniel and Allison, who lived in Tiburon, California discover a very interesting trait about their son, he has a tendency to float or hover and as the story informs us, “when left to his own devices, his tiny body would quiver and twitch ever so slightly, as if a small pulse or electricity had zapped him. Then, ever so slightly, he would rise up off of the crib mattress, or his changing table, or wherever he happened to be lying at the time, and hover there in the air.”
One day, Matthew's parents are informed by their family doctor that he knows someone who had invented boots for astronauts who had used them on the moon and in outer space, where there was little or no gravity. The boots created a gravitational force that allowed the astronauts to walk around as if they were on earth. The doctor contacts his friend who in turn produces a pair of “gravity booties” for Matthew.
In a way this was quite a blessing and a game changer, on the other hand, Matthew hated the boots as he was obliged to wear them all the time even at school and was told to never remove them, particularly in public, which made him quite different and to some, quite weird.
Notwithstanding Matthew's special quality, Matthew grows into a healthy happy little boy, however, he is ostracized by his classmates and his activities are very much restricted such as not being able to sleep overnight at a friend's house or go swimming. He is also subjected to bullying at the hands of one of his classmates, which, as the tale unfolds, leads to an astonishing outcome wherein Matthew discovers five other children that have the same mind-boggling oddity as his and in the process he also finds a new home in the most unlikely of places. Moreover, all the negative, unpleasant experiences that happened previously to Matthew seem to evaporate because he discovers that he is not the only one with this special ability.
The Nubivagants is a touching original yarn that makes the preposterous seem plausible while capturing the hearts and heads of its readers.
You cannot help but care about Matthew and at the same time wonder about all of the children as well as adults that are different and struggling to navigate a world that doesn't accept them.
Furman effectively engages his young audience moving Matthew from one scene to another while at the same time weaving in his thoughts, feelings, reactions and his concern about his future. Furthermore, he avoids falling into the trap of underestimating his readers' intelligence recognizing that they are not one-dimensional little clueless people as to how things really work. Some humor is also tossed in which diminishes some of the tension, particularly during and after intense scenes. No doubt, Furman's utterly original creation will make even the most doubting reader sit up and take notice.