Bedlam Hospital has a disturbing problem: every night, at precisely Twelve Minutes to Midnight, the inmates begin feverishly writing gibberish—on paper, on the walls, on themselves; in pencil, in ink, in blood. In the morning, none of the inmates have any memory of their actions, and every night, the madness spreads further. Having exhausted every medical avenue*, the authorities turn to Montgomery Flinch, an author who has recently taken England by storm with his macabre tales of terror published in the Penny Dreadful.
Little do they know, Montgomery Flinch doesn't exist. The stories are actually written by thirteen-year-old Penelope Treadwell, the orphaned heiress who owns the Penny Dreadful.
But Penelope isn't going to let a trifling detail like THAT prevent her from investigating...
Loads of atmosphere, action, and tense moments.
Details like the secret door leading to the SPOILER, and the mysterious, beautiful widow are nice nods to the genre and suggest a real affection for it.
Edge doesn't condescend to his audience: he doesn't over-explain plot points, and he never actually spills the beans about the specific events the prisoners are writing about. Deciphering those texts isn't necessary to enjoy the story, but they'll make a nice Easter Egg for any readers with a basic knowledge of twentieth-century history.
I got the impression that Edge was shooting for Late Nineteenth-Century Verbose and Flowery, but there's a distinct lack of rhythm in the prose. For example: "Behind him, Alfie failed to hide the smirk on his face as he took a sip from one of Monty's discarded glasses before grimacing in sudden disgust." In other words, much of the book feels like one big run-on sentence.
There's nothing in the way of character arc or growth: at the end of the story, the main characters are exactly who they were at the beginning. (I suppose that could be chalked up as a nod to the conventions of the genre, but as always, I don't like that as an argument, as it suggests that genre fiction is somehow 'lesser' than 'literary' fiction. Anyway.)
For a smart girl, Penelope is amazingly slow to put two and two together. Also, three-quarters of the way in, a plot point requires her to suddenly possess Crazy Science Skills which she explains away by saying that she's 'always' had a strong interest in science. It was so out of left field that I wrote NANCY DREW MOMENT in my notes.
Nutshell: Plenty of atmosphere and action, but no character development or emotional depth.
*I think? Hopefully this wasn't their first choice of solution?
Moonbot Studios announced today that it will acquire film rights to the Olivia Kidney trilogyof young adult books by award-winning author Ellen Potter. The series is published by Philomel (a division of Penguin/Putnam).Moonbot plans to develop Olivia’s Alice in Wonderland-like adventures as a live action film with significant animation sequences. The film rights deal was handled by David Lipman and Michael Siegel for Moonbot and for Ellen Potter by Alice Tasman and Jennifer Weltz of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.
If the movie happens, hopefully the books will finally get the attention that they deserve. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
And, despite my difficulty with the ultra-quirk end of the spectrum—inhabited primarily by Stargirl and her ukelele—I adored this book. It's basically Hart of Dixie, if Zoe Hart happened to be a formerly affluent ten-year-old. It's got that same city-to-small-Southern-town move, that same solitude-to-community arc, the same cultural fish-out-of-water story, as well as a lot of learning about friendship and not making assumptions and working together and just plain old summertime kid fun.
THE BOOKS! Penny is a huge reader, most of her understanding of the world comes from living vicariously through books, and thus, that affects her thought process and perspective:
Duncan didn't look especially fragile or sensitive to Penny, no more so than anyone else she'd ever met. But looks could be deceiving. Maybe Duncan was like an upsetting book with an ordinary, happy cover. Maybe he was Bridge to Terabithia.
PENNY AND HER PARENTS! There is a whole lot of strife in the household, most of it due to financial woes—and that, in itself, is another plus: speaking as someone who grew up in a "scrimp and pinch" family, as much as adults try to protect them from it, economic hardship is a very real fear for kids, and it's always nice to see it addressed—but there's also plenty of love and affection. And it isn't just Penny's family. All of the various parents at the Whippoorwillows compound are loving and emotionally generous, with their own children and with the children of others, and the children have those same qualities. While that might seem unrealistic to some readers, it's important to remember that the tenants aren't random: every family living there is there by specific invitation.
FRIENDSHIP! As I mentioned above, there are lessons about friendship, about making assumptions, about working together, and about when to ask for help... but all of them are integrated organically into the story, and it's very much a story about Penny figuring things out, rather than a story created to teach the reader. Upon her family's arrival at the Whippoorwillows, Penny almost immediately finds a bosom friend in Luella. They clearly adore each other, but that doesn't prevent them from having disagreements or from—especially in Penny's case, as she's never really had a real friend before—making mistakes.
THE ART! I love it so much when it's clear that the artist did a close-read of the text. Abigail Halpin includes so many dead-on-the-money details that I'm going to hunt around for other chapter books she's illustrated. [ETA: Well, then. That was the easiest research I've done, like, ever.]
It's warm and cozy, it's about family and friends and community, and about how you don't have to go out looking for dragons to be a hero: oftentimes, it's everyday life that brings the real adventure.
That is when Warner announced that Ms. Rowling had agreed to adapt for the big screen her “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a 2001 book billed as one of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbooks. Three megamovies are planned. The main character will be a “magizoologist” named Newt Scamander. The stories, neither prequels or sequels, will start in New York about seven decades before the arrival of Mr. Potter and his pals.
I’m guessing what upset you most about the book was that you got no WARNING. There is no backmatter to inform readers that they might encounter diversity in this book. You may feel that your daughter should have had a chance to choose for herself that she was about to encounter a few lines of text in which there were gay people. I don’t know how this would work. Should I have also included a warning label: WARNING: THIS BOOK HAS SOME JEWS IN IT?
And as I haven't read the book yet, I just ILLed the hell out of it.
Ethnic diversity is on the rise in the U.S. So why are children's books still so white? Only about 6 percent of kids' books published in 2013 feature characters that are African-American, Latino, Asian or Native American. We take up the discussion with authors, illustrators and librarians. Does the ethnicity of characters in children's books matter to you?
Panelists include Christopher Myers, Mitali Perkins, and others!