Monday, August 22, 2011

The Kneebone Boy review

Book talk: Life for the Hardscrabble children is, well...hard.  Ever since his mother's mysterious disappearance, Otto hasn't removed his black scarf or spoken out loud.  Ever since Otto stopped speaking and started wearing a heavy scarf in hot weather the rest of the town has stopped talking to him, except for his sister Lucia who developed a sign language system to communicate with him.  This has left the youngest Hardscrabble, Max on his own to try, unsuccessfully, to make friends and lead a normal life.  Life is far from average for the Hardscrabbles, but it becomes even more extraordinary when the children go to stay with their aunt, who lives in a miniature castle.  Will they be able to uncover the mystery behind their mother's disappearance, or will they be attacked by the kneebone boy before they even get a chance?

Rocks my socks: I love the quirkiness of the characters.  Potter adds unique details so that even minor characters are entertaining caricatures.  I enjoy the quality of parody the novel has as well as it piles on fantasy cliches to the point of absurdity while keeping it rooted in reality in the end.  That aspect of it reminded me of an episode of Scooby Doo: it flirts with fantastic elements, but in the end everything has a rational explanation.  The novel is narrated by one of the children who persists in addressing the reader directly and going on diversions that annoyed me at first but grew on me as the novel continued.

Rocks in my socks: The Kneebone Boy contains elements of various genres but doesn't fit solidly in any one and that leaves it a bit scattered.  It's a bit too absurd to be a realistic novel, but it's not really fantasy either.  There's a mystery in it, but not a traditional one and the adventure elements are only at intervals which are probably too far between to keep the interest of someone looking for a straight adventure. Because of these interludes with different genres the harshly realistic ending seems to come out of left field and is a bit jarring.

Every book its reader: I can see fans of  A Series of Unfortunate Events enjoying the often dark and sarcastic adventures of the Hardscrabble children.  Fans of multiple genres might enjoy this cross-genre novel but for those who are purists of any one genre it may be too much of a mix.  I'd give it to grades 4 to 7.

Bonus Quote: "People should have all their big adventures while they’re still under the age of fourteen. If you don’t, you start to lose your passion for big adventures. It just begins to fade away bit by bit and then you forget you ever wanted adventures in the first’s criminal the way that happens." Ellen Potter, The Kneebone Boy

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

Buy it from your local indie bookstore or check it out at your local library

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