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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  660 ratings  ·  140 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, 131 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  660 ratings  ·  140 reviews

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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.
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. N
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful kid's adventure story!! Well-paced, well-adventured, quite funny, and pretty traditional on the beats (but we rescue an adorable dragon prince!!)

I am currently out of new (and old) T Kingfisher stories so I have begun plumbing the Children's Section of the library. Also, I was looking for another story to memorize and tell aloud for the Augusta Bakers Dozen celebration, and I feel certain that there is probably a Vernon story out there that I can make work!! I just have to find it!

Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens
I've been reading a few of Ursula Vernon's books as potential reads to pass along to my niece and nephew. This one is pretty cute, a sweet little story about Nurk, a timid little shrew who finds himself swept along on an adventure by a soggy letter and mysterious call for help. It's not as precious as Castle Hangnail, but if I were 6 I'm sure I would love this to pieces. Certainly worthy of passing along. ...more
Sylvia Walker
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book for middle graders, and me, too! I love the way the author writes about nature.
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh I LOVE this.
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
A fun but quaint animal adventure with a lot of heart. Recommended for an elementary read-aloud chapter book.
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Simply cute and charming
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
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
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
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
Drew Perron
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ursula Vernon is great, the end.

Okay no, not the end. But this is just such a terribly good children's book, from the early part of her career making them. Not only is it adorable from toe to head, sweet and funny and deeply kind, but it takes the standard quest narrative and pulls out the junk, focusing down on the interesting, characterful parts until it fits nicely in a 131-page book for ages 8 to 12. Yet it's still, to older eyes, an evocative story, whose protagonist has a complicated relat
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
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kate by: a Junior Library Guild pick
I loved this story of a shrew who longs for adventure and finds it when he mistakenly opens a letter meant for his adventurous grandmother. The illustrations are wonderful, the characters are charming, and there was enough suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat. A great read for children who aren't quite ready for the Redwall series or for parents to read aloud to and enjoy with their kids. ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is really, really, REALLY great. It is SO fun as an audiobook as well. Our whole family listened to it on a car trip, a long while back now, and it is one of our classics. It is funny and cute and also, according to my 6-year-old, a little scary in an exciting way, and has so much to offer everyone. LOVE LOVE LOVE!
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
This was ADORABLE, and not scary-tense-exciting at all - exactly what I was looking for! It's a short book, because, you know, for children, and it's so sweet & warm-hearted & kind to the characters. ♥

(I have tagged it as graphic novel even though it technically isn't because it's been illustrated by the author.)
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade, fantasy
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. ...more
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
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)
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids, readaloud
I could definitely tell this was Ursula Vernon's first novel, because it doesn't have the tight pacing of her later books. But all her charm is here, and Nurk is absolutely adorable. My seven year old and I loved this book. ...more
MB (What she read)
I do SO enjoy Ursula Vernon's sense of humor. I need a child to share this with. ...more
Kate Sherwood
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charming, really.
Nicolas Hall
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Charming and wonderful tale. Just what I needed when the adult world seems so out of whack.
Nurk navigates with clean socks and cheese sandwiches. Nurk speaks to my soul.

Also, AAAAGH caterpillars.
Becky B
Nurk is a shrew with adventure in his blood. At least, he thinks there might be. His grandmother is/was a great adventurer (and no one seems to know if she's still alive or not). Inspired by her journal (well, at least what he can make out of it...adventurers have atrocious handwriting it seems), and a piece of mail asking for help, Nurk fashions himself an adventure-worthy vessel and sets out to return the piece of mail and perhaps help out whoever was asking for help (the mail was seriously wa ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
"Travel broadens the mind."

Nurk is unlike Vernon's other works besides perhaps Digger. It's more aimed at teenagers or adults as far as I could grasp.

It's a rather slow read taking in Nurk as a character. He's not terribly interesting of a character. The illustrations are few and far between for a book under two-hundred pages. Everything about Nurk as a character is a drag, his development is more a literal guilt trip. He's guilted into taking a trip over possible mail fraud in a world where yo
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Nurk the shrew has spent his whole life on his island home, but he dreams of going on adventures like his grandmother Surka. One day a somewhat rainwashed letter arrives pleading for help, but much to his horror, he realizes after opening it that the smeared "urk" on the front is not "Nurk", but "Surka". In dire fear of mail fraud he determines to return the letter. After preparing a snail shell (empty) he calls the Snailboat, he sets off on the river.

This has fairly obvious Hobbit similarities
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?

Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Cute little kids book about a somewhat timid shrew called Nurk who longs for adventure, and when he accidentally opens a letter asking for help, he decides to embrace the opportunity and heads downstream where he finds both adventure and new acquaintances. This is probably for 8-12 year olds-ish? It's a story about learning to be brave, learning independence, being creative helping friends, and pursuing your dreams. ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I almost forgot about reading this one...I loved it when I first read it. How can you not love a shrew that acts like Bilbo Baggins and packs socks on adventure? And royal dragonflies?
It's utterly weird and adorable from beginning to end.
Full review here for the curious:
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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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