In Creurer’s debut novel, a young boy hopes to retrieve the missing stamp—and valuable inheritance—he believes someone has pilfered.
Eleven-year-old Canadian Ivan Morrow is worried about a school project. His teacher, Mrs. Phillips, tells students they will be spending three half-hour periods each week on their hobbies. Ivan has no hobbies, and when Mrs. Phillips asks what his is, he quickly chooses stamps. But after a stamp shop owner, Mr. Carruthers, helps the boy get a collection started, Ivan develops a fondness for the activity, particularly the research involved. He’s surprised to learn that his great-grandfather had been a philatelist and had a bag of stamps he wanted to stay in the family for any interested descendants. In his great-grandfather’s collection, Ivan finds an unusual, hidden stamp that he takes to Mr. Carruthers. It’s an antique Penny Black that the shop owner appraises as having six-digit value. Ivan takes his stamps to school for show and tell only for his prized Penny Black to vanish. Though it turns up soon thereafter, Ivan is convinced it’s a forgery and someone has stolen the genuine stamp. With a suspect or two in mind, Ivan and classmate pals Tom and Leese plan to catch a thief. Creurer bolsters his leisurely tale with an appealing protagonist whose recent growth spurt earned him the titular nickname. It’s clear Ivan is not driven by the stamp’s hefty value but, rather, wants to recover what he feels his ancestor “entrusted” to him. The smart, confident prose comes from an older Ivan, who narrates. This unfortunately doesn’t allow him to fully capture an 11-year-old’s perspective in all its innocence or youthful exuberance, as the adult narrator has the benefit of experience and hindsight: “My personality existed in a state too unformed as yet to lend strength.” Nevertheless, the sophisticated writing is generally charming. Ivan and friends, for example, are fully committed to surveilling a suspect and diligently study the person’s routine like private investigators.
A measured, engrossing story that turns philately into a quiet mystery.