Do you like reading fantasy novels featuring talking animals? If you’re like me, you do. I had never read any featuring ones from Australia before I discovered Howard L. Anderson’s mesmerizing and fantastically fun novel, Albert of Adelaide, though. Well, not unless you count Winnie the Pooh, which has the kangaroos Kanga and Roo. Needless to say (but I will), I thoroughly enjoyed reading the adventures of the platypus, Albert from Adelaide. It is a fun-filled, though bittersweet, novel that kids of all ages will love reading.
Why “bittersweet” you might ask? Albert’s childhood is not a very pleasant one, as he has lived most of his younger life in a zoo, after his parents have been killed. He doesn’t like the boring routine of life at the zoo in Adelaide, and he hates people visiting the zoo staring at him all day long. He’s heard rumors of how Australia used to be, and that a part of the huge island country is still a place where animals like himself can find “liberty, promise, and peace.”
He decides to escape the Adelaide Zoo and go in search for the promised land he imagines still exists somewhere in Australia. The rest of the novel is filled with his adventures as he travels across the island continent. He meets up with a friendly wombat, Jack, who gives him tea and sardines to eat when he was on the brink of death from thirst. The two friends traverse Australia, though Jack tells Albert he, personally, has never seen such a place as the platypus is in search of.
Jack arranges for Albert to take part in boxing matches held at a ramshackle general store ran by a kangaroo at Ponsby Station. Animals bet on the matches. They work in mines, like humans do. The author creates an anthropomorphic version of Australia, in which animals in some respects behave and talk like humans. The platypus is usually mild-mannered, but he does well at boxing, getting angry when he imagines that the marsupial faces watching the matches are the human faces at the zoo. His poisonous spurs on his hind legs grow, and he feels tempted to use them on his opponents, but is able to restrain himself.
Though Albert is a marsupial like the other ones at Ponsby Station, the kangaroo owner of the store has never seen a platypus before and doubts that he is one. He, and the other animals there, are prejudiced against any animal that is not a marsupial. Eventually, this leads to Jack and Albert getting out of the town after the platypus succeeds in winning too much of the other animals’ money, and they form a lynch mob.
Jack blames himself for causing Albert so much trouble, and he splits up his belongings with Albert, each going their separate ways. Jack even gives Albert his extra revolver. Is this the end of their relationship?
Albert has many further adventures in his quest, in a wonderful page-turning book that some reviewers have compared to another book in which the characters travel a lot, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. His adventures take him to some pretty dicey places, like a town where he meets a wallaby who is missing half an ear, smoking a cigar, and wearing a white tuxedo jacket. The wallaby uses his cigar to light a rocket, which flies into the sky and explodes.
Albert of Adelaide is the debut novel by Howard L. Anderson. The author has managed to capture the spirit of Australia, no small feat as he actually lives in New Mexico. If you love reading books with talking animals in them as the main characters, I would highly recommend this novel to you. It’s also one that adults will enjoy reading, as it deals with themes like power, fear, prejudice, and the fluid nature of good and evil. I think that Albert of Adelaide is destined to be a classic, and that it would make for a great animated movie. Check it out today!