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Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  390 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
Nurk is a quiet homebody of a shrew. But when a mysterious plea for help arrives in the mail, he invokes the spirit of his fearless warrior-shrew grandmother, Surka, and sets off to find the sender. It seems the prince of the dragonflies has been kidnapped, and Nurk is his last hope for rescue. Such a mission would be daunting for even the biggest, baddest, and bravest of ...more
ebook, 144 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Harcourt Brace and Company (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 654)
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Lara's
Nov 15, 2008 Lara's rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents and 4th-6th grades
Synopsis : Nurk is a quiet homebody of a shrew. Until the day a mysterious letter arrives. Suddenly he's involved in a harrowing rescue--the likes of which would intimidate event the biggest and bravest of shrews.
Review : There is perhaps a small window of reader that will truly love this tale. But, they will LOVE it! I count myself among that window of reader. The vocabulary requires an advanced reader while the story itself is a little slow and predictible for all but the younger crew. Nurk
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Res
Apr 11, 2009 Res rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
The one where Nurk, the shrew, opens a letter that's meant for his grandmother, Surka the warrior hero, and thus is forced to set off on an adventure of his own, guided only by her journal.

This is a charming kids' book. The art is at least a third of the pleasure, and Surka's badly spelled, fearless journal is another third. The tone is great, mildly skeptical without being openly sarcastic. (For instance, once Nurk gets his snail-shell boat out into mid-river, he notes that it's going faster th
...more
JES
Sep 21, 2014 JES rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, here's a quick-brushstroke summary:

Cute little shrew named Nurk goes on a journey in the footsteps of his adventuring grandmother, sailing downriver in a boat made of a snail's shell. En route, he encounters the kingdom of the dragonflies, talking fish, frightening mushrooms, a mole the size of an asteroid, and many other obstacles. He becomes a hero, perhaps even one his grandmother would be proud of. Delightful drawings throughout.

How would YOU position such a book in the marketplace?

The
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Colleen
Regardless of publication order, I read this book *after* Digger, which I believe to be the proper order of things. In this story, the grandson of Surka the brave shrew from Digger receives a letter asking for help. Just after that, he finds his grandmother's diary. Quotes from the diary help him get moving out into the world to find his adventure.

"IT seEMs to me ThAt if I kEeP wAitinG uNtiL I am olDeR, oNe day i'LL diScoVeR thAt I aM olD, aNd I wiLl sTiLL nOt hAVe HaD aN AdVenTuRe!"

This is a s
...more
Melle
Jan 05, 2016 Melle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who need confidence and love anthropomorphic animal stories
This was an enchanting little reluctant journey tale of a young, somewhat-timid shrew who wants to follow in the footsteps of his legendary fierce warrior grandmother. I can think of so many books to which this book would be a great stepping stone: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Brian Jacques' Redwall, Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, but I'm having trouble thinking of the kind of things that might lead a reader to this -- maybe ...more
MB (What she read)
I do SO enjoy Ursula Vernon's sense of humor. I need a child to share this with.
Miramira Endevall
May 27, 2010 Miramira Endevall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Morgan
Recommended to Miramira by: JFi, that gal from bookclub who loves animal stories
Shelves: own
I have a total author-crush on Vernon. I would literary do her.
Tricia
I adored this book! The prose is quite lyrical and often funny. There are lots of wonderful details such as "the voice was scratchy and raspy and metallic, like sand poured into a copper kettle." It isn't dumbed down due to the likely audience (pre-teen independent readers). It also has a touch of sweetness - but not too sweet to appeal to an 8 year old boy.

Nurk is a shrew who is a bit timid but who also longs (just a bit) for adventure. Although he is timid, he has a family legacy to live up to
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Kirsten
Nurk is a classic children's book hero: he has always longed for adventure, but he remains at home, contemplating the fact that adventures probably involve a lack of dry socks. Still, he feels slightly ashamed that he has not lived up to the example of his grandmother, who was an adventurer extraordinaire. When a letter arrives with a blurred address, Nurk opens it. It is a plea for help from downstream -- but it is meant for his missing grandmother, not to him.

After panicking for a day or so ab
...more
Anna
I love Ursula Vernon's art and I love her descriptions of her work, but I don't think she has a grasp of storytelling. Her ideas are cute and imaginative, but I don't think they fit well into a book. Her narrative is awkward and it mixes childlike aspects and adult aspects into one novel; I feel like the result is, as I said, awkward. Plus, I was often bored with the plot. The book is very long for a story about a shrew that only goes downriver and saves a dragonfly from a mole.

Also, I was confu
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Phillip
"Travel broadens the mind," the diminutive title character of "Nurk" keeps reminding himself as he progresses through the stages of his adventure in the wide and threatening world. For a tiny timid shrew who has not wandered very far at all from his home under the roots of a willow tree, the experiences that await him should broaden his mind like it was made of Silly Putty. His greatest challenge, however is trying to live up to the reputation of his battle-bred Grandmother Surka, while bearing ...more
Mark
Aug 28, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cute little story about a cute little Shrew going on an adventure.

I love Ursula's works and have for many, many years since all she wrote were the descriptions on her beautiful pieces of art.

This is a very light story and is a quick read. I bought it on Audible and plan to play it for the kids on long car rides. I think they'll love it.
Tara
Oct 28, 2014 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, kids, adventure
My near seven year old loved this tale and he was not alone. On a long car ride we listened to this story and neither of us could wait to see what would happen next or what interesting character would next be introduced.
Catherine
Jan 03, 2012 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, now I know that you should never buy oranges from wind gypsies. A few good quotes from the book:

"A true adventurer needs a keen wit, a stout heart and a strong bladder. Dumb luck can stand in for the wit and the heart, but I've never yet found a good substitute for the bladder."

"It's always nice to have someplace to come home to. At best, it's a place where you can rest and be refreshed by familiar surroundings and well-loved people. At worst, at least you remember why you wanted to go awa
...more
Lea
The Goodreads description of this book is pretty accurate. An orphaned shrew living alone in his ancestral willow tree receives a letter addressed to his brave, adventurous, and now missing grandmother asking for her help and feels called to respond, eventually sneaking into the lair of a giant mole to rescue a dragonfly prince held captive there. A big hit with the second grader at our house.
Hope
This is a sweet, delightful adventure book, without violence but with lots of heart. I love it, and it would be great to read to even a very young child.

I want to write like then when I grown up! (N.B. I'm in my 40s)
Lily
Oct 14, 2014 Lily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous. Ursula Vernon does it again. She has such a great way with words that the reader can picture everything, even when there isn't one of her great illustrations to go along with it.
Bobby Simic
Summary:
Nurk, a timid shrew, longs for adventure and gets his chance at it when he's mistakenly delivered a piece of mail intended for his daring but long-lost grandmother.
Strengths:
Nurk's a cute and likable character. I especially liked the beginning when he's preparing for his journey.
Weaknesses:
But once he goes on his adventure, the story becomes pretty typical for the little-critter-goes-on-a-big-journey genre. I found Vernon's world, which is a mix of realistic animals and fantasical creat
...more
babyhippoface
Sep 04, 2010 babyhippoface rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids-fiction, fantasy
From the description, I didn't anticipate liking this book much. But I was pleasantly surprised. I found myself really enjoying the way Nurk's mind worked, and I chuckled out loud several times at the way he phrased things. While I didn't love it, I did think it was pretty cute. Younger kids who can read well and have a tendency toward shyness may really take a liking to Nurk.

Couple of quotes I liked:
"Surka spelled words as if they had personally offended her."
"You can't fight the weather. Well
...more
Courtney
Dec 30, 2010 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this book is on the Oklahoma Children's Sequoyah List and I am a part-time elementary librarian, I have seen a promo video done by the Brown Brothers of Perma-Bound books. I was curious how the socks that Nurk was armed with would help him. I picked this book because it was rather short and it sounded interesting. By the time I was at least halfway through the book it finally got to the part about the Grizzlemole. As long as it took Nurk to reach the bad guy, he sure didn't have any proble ...more
Suzanne
Aug 15, 2015 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't like it as well as Dragonsbreath but still a fun little adventure story and there aren't many of those involving shew.
Rachael
Nov 27, 2015 Rachael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, kids, fiction
I love Ursula Vernon's brain. This book is definitely a worthy treatise on the importance of bravery and clean socks.
Ian
Apr 11, 2011 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventures
"Travel broadens the mind", and it surely does for a little shrew named Nurk that had never left his little island before, until the fateful day that a mysterious letter came to his house. Almost by mistake Nurk ends up having an adventure following the footsteps of his famous grandmother Surka (the intrepid shrew who some will remember from Ursula's online comic Digger), sailing on a snail shell, making new friends in the land and in the air, and fighting a fearsome mole.
A quick and easy read,
...more
Fergus Murray
Oct 14, 2014 Fergus Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nurk is probably my favourite character from a kids' book that I've encountered in adult life.
Nostalgia Reader
3.5 stars, but fun enough to round to 4!

A lovely adventure story. Although I do agree with other readers that the vocab in this (and in some ways, the plot) can be a bit advanced for some readers of the recommended age range, at the same time it's still an excellent read for more advanced readers, or even for tweens, teens, and adults who may not want to admit it, but like to read cute stories from time to time. It's a great way to get younger readers hooked on animal adventure stories--I could
...more
Jacqueline Brown
Mar 28, 2015 Jacqueline Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cute and funny story - perfect for third or fourth grade
Mohammed
Feb 13, 2014 Mohammed added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 0
Recommended to Mohammed by: 0
Shelves: nurk
i think nurk is going to meet this angry humming bird
LS Schulz
Nurk's grandmother was an adventurer, but Nurk doesn't see himself as one until he embarks on a journey to return a letter to its sender. The critters who he meets along the way are all quite interesting characters. I'm still not quite sure what to make about the talking salmon hanging from that tree, although their attempts at raising an alarm are funny.

The illustrations are wonderful and the story itself is a very fun read. My kids enjoyed hearing about Nurk's adventure as much as I enjoyed re
...more
Brandy
A little slow and predictable, but still cute and fun all the same. I've been reading Vernon's webcomic Digger for years, and she's good at spinning the Epic Quest of a Reluctant Hero, but this didn't feel up to quite the same standard--maybe because she was going for a shorter, all-prose story? I dunno.

This will find its audience (3rd-5th graders, I'd guess), probably with fans of Despereaux-type stories. I wasn't wowed by it, but liked it okay--maybe 3.5 stars.
Angela Oliver
This delightful little book was a fun read. With its charming illustrations and entertaining text, it certainly kept me entertained. Vernon has a quirky sense of humour, funny without resorting to "toilet humour" and also engages in clever wordplay. Nurk's amazing adventure was a pleasure to read. Although the plot did feel rather linear - with few twists and surprises and not a great deal of tension. But there were some little quirks to liven it up. And the illustrations brought the story alive ...more
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Ursula Vernon is a freelance writer, artist and illustrator. She is best known for the webcomic Digger and the children's books Dragonbreath and Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew. Ursula is also a prolific painter and the creator of the Biting Pear of Salamanca, a work which became an internet meme in the form of the "LOL WUT" pear.

Ursula's cover for Best in Show
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“I love boats. Boats are great. You can get all kinds of places and meet all kinds of interesting people, and you never know if they're going to try to eat you or worship you.” 6 likes
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