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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  516 Ratings  ·  114 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
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Miramira Endevall
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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
MB (What she read)
I do SO enjoy Ursula Vernon's sense of humor. I need a child to share this with.
Anna Hepworth
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nurk, by Ursula Vernon, is very loosely linked to her much larger work, Digger. If you have read that work recently enough, you might remember the character Surka, who is both a shrew, and a troll.

Nurk is the grandchild of Surka, and is living the quiet life and dreaming of going adventuring like his grandmother. When a water spattered letter arrives, enough of the addressees name is obscured that Nurk feels comfortable in opening it, assuming that it is for him. When he works out that a) it is
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
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?

Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, middle-grade
Lovely little fairy tale featuring a reluctant hero shrew. Nurk spends his entire adventure knowing he needs to do the right thing and terrified by every aspect of doing it. He's saved at the end by his own practicality - always pack an extra pair of clean socks! The story beats are a bit predictable, but the details and characters are wonderful.
Nurk is an amusing and entertaining book for adults to read to their little children and perhaps for small children to read on their own, though there are a few "big words" they may need help with. The occasional illustrations are adorable and the story beautifully written.
Katie Holm
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, animal, fantasy
Nurk was a sweet, adorable story about a little shrew who wasn't sure he wanted an adventure, but was sure he wanted to help. In some ways Nurk reminded me of Bilbo Baggins, being nervous about an adventure, but going along nonetheless. I will definitely want to read it again in the future.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gabriels-books
Very cute. I've been a fan of Ursula Vernon's art for a while. I read Digger first. Loved it. Then read this. Some have compared this to The Hobbit or The Wind in the Willows. That is a mistake. This is the story of Nurk and it is a very good story, indeed.
Nurk receives a letter intended for his adventurous Grandma and decides he must deliver it in person. He runs into the dragonfly who sent the letter and Nurk finds himself on a mission to rescue the Prince of the dragonflies from a mole.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was a fun book that I enjoyed. I don't know if my 5yo enjoyed it or not. I read it to him at bedtime one chapter at a time and he would fall asleep at some point.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Ugh! Not my book!
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Cute. Quite different from the Dragonbreath series, but my 6 y.o. son and I liked it.
The latest readaloud with my kid, and Nurk and his reluctant adventuring was a big hit. Any book that you just have to plow through the final three chapters to find out what happens even though it's already way past your bedtime is automatically one to recommend. I appreciated Nurk struggles with bravery and whether or not he really did want to answer a request for help. The lovely details of his trip and the people (creatures) he meets along the way were greatly enhanced by the author's deft il ...more
Got My Book
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Also posted on my blog Got My Book.

A simple but very funny MG Fantasy.

Nurk by Ursula Vernon, read & published by Full Cast Audio (2009) / Length: 3 hrs 6 min

SERIES INFO: This is standalone

Whenever I just need to listen to something a bit silly & sweet, I think of this one. 

Nurk: An orphaned shrew who mostly lives a sensible & comfortable life taking care of himself and conversing with his friend the salamander. He nevertheless admires his adventurous g
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 18, 2010 rated it liked it
"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
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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,
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, kids-fiction
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
Bobby Simic
Aug 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Nurk's a cute and likable character. I especially liked the beginning when he's preparing for his journey.
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
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
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
More about Ursula Vernon

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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.” 7 likes
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