April 12, 2016

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Contest Winner and a New Summer Read

Congratulations to Tabatha Yeatts-Lonske!

Tabatha's name was unscientifically but randomly chosen from among everyone who commented on my upcoming blog-lift. She gets a signed copy of my poetry chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone.

I kicked off the summer with a visit to ALA, where I picked up more ARCs than I could carry.

One of my favorites was the middle grade novel The Kneebone Boy By Ellen Potter. It comes out next month from Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan).

Here is my review of The Kneebone Boy, recommended for ages 9-12.

What was your overall impression of the book?
The Kneebone Boy has Gothic elements (“orphaned” English children on the run, a family mystery), but the adventures of the Hardscrabble children never veer into fantasy or horror and the children are never really in danger. While the book’s cover art looks foreboding, the narrator’s voice is full of light ‘tween sarcasm that gives the novel humor and heart.

The story in one sentence?
When their father takes off unexpectedly, the three Hardscrabble children fend for themselves in London, track down a long-last aunt, and try to solve the mystery of the mysterious Kneebone Boy.

Who were your favorite characters and why?
My favorite characters were Lucia Hardscrabble and Great Aunt Haddie. One of the originalities of this book is that one siblings is acting as author/narrator on behalf of all three. The reader is invited to guess which one. My guess was Lucia (she’s the only girl in the family -- I could relate). Since I found her voice to be funny, sweet and a little cynical, I liked Lucia.

Great Aunt Haddie is a fun supporting character. You can feel this wild, careless and caring young woman growing on the Hardscrabble kids. Her American oddities – like eating PB&J sandwiches for dinner – are endearing to the kids. She is a complex, interesting character you’d want to know in real life. And hooray! she doesn’t step in and rescue the children, but lets them work things out for themselves.

What were your favorite parts of the story?
One of my favorite parts of the book is the setting of its second half. Great Aunt Haddie lives in a castle folly. I’d never heard of castle follies before. The castle folly takes a Gothic element that is normally sinister – a dark and dreary castle with a dungeon for the children to sleep in – and turns it on its head, making it fun. I could say that of most of the novel.

Here is a castle folly in England that you can rent for your next vacation:

What did you like about the graphics/cover?
Here’s the problem: the cover is gorgeous.

It made me want to pick up the book. There are three ominous, steely eyed children standing in front of a threatening forest. One (the eldest Hardscrabble) is holding a black cat. It reads Gothic, maybe fantasy. That's the problem.

The Kneebone Boy is closer in tone to Jeanne Birdsall's Penderwick novels. Even the dark school uniforms the children wear on the cover disappear before Chapter 3. Is this cover a fair representation of what you’re about to read? I’m not so sure.

Would you recommend to a friend? What would you say?
I've already handed the book to my 10-year-old. The Kneebone Boy is a fun book, with a family story both sad and heart-warming at its center. It straddles several genres and styles, most of the time successfully. Middle grade readers who haven’t yet encountered Gothic novels probably won’t be expecting to see Gothic tropes here, but I was. That's why it gets...

Three Scoops

Summer Reading  Score
Empty Cone – Didn’t like it.
One Scoop – It was okay.
Two Scoops – Pretty good.
Three Scoops – Great book.
Sundae – I want to read the whole series. Now.


Tabatha said...

Thanks, Laura! I'm looking forward to my prize!

Your review of the Kneebone Boy was interesting -- it's funny how covers affect our expectations. I am not crazy about covers with photos of teenagers looking pensive. Or maybe I should say, I assume that I wouldn't be interested in those books.

Author Amok said...

When Laurent Linn came to our regional conference, he gave a fascinating presentation about the planning and debate that goes into covers.

I'm still not sure about this one. I don't feel it's really true to the tone of the novel, but it will doubtless attract buyers.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ellen. Thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked the review. I love your sense of humor.