The Kneebone Boy
By Ellen Potter
(Feiwel & Friends, Hardcover, 9780312377724, 288pp.)
Publication Date: September 14, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who's away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal. . . .
In this wickedly dark, unusual, and compelling novel, Ellen Potter masterfully tells the tale of one deliciously strange family and a secret that changes everything.
Ellen Potter is the author of books including Slob, Pish Posh, and Olivia Kidney. With Anne Mazer she is also the author of Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook. Potter grew up in a high-rise apartment building in New York City's Upper West Side, where she exercised her early creativity by making up stories about the neighbors she saw on the elevator. When she was 11 years old, she realized all the best books were written for people her age, and so she decided to become a children's book author. She studied creative writing at Binghamton University, and then worked many different jobs while continuing to write. She was a dog groomer, construction worker, art teacher, and waitress. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, son and a motley assortment of badly behaved animals.
The three Hardscrabble siblings set out to learn the identity of the title character in Ellen Potter's gothic mystery The Kneebone Boy. But it's the trio's longing to unwrap the truth about their missing mom that sets off a grand adventure full of shadowy characters and hair-raising action.
A quirky charmer.
What premise could be more compelling than a gothic mystery set to miniature proportions? Lucia's narration is witty and conversational, with an appealingly humble self-awareness when needed. Gentle, pensive Otto is completely as expected, but Max turns out to be a bit of a surprise, mostly because Lucia had previously considered him merely an obnoxious know-it-all and is only now noticing his quite useful ability to puzzle things through...Appealing voice, setting, character, a surprise ending, and a touch of sweetness all add up to a delicious read.
Hilarious and heartbreaking, wild and down-to-earth… The combination of fantasy and realism makes a compelling story, and young people will relate easily to the characters' struggles.
With a dark, witty absurdity suggestive of Lemony Snicket, Potter (the Olivia Kidney books) draws readers into this compelling mystery-adventure about a missing mother… Often laugh-out-loud funny, this tale quietly solves a deeper mystery: how to heal the hearts of this immensely likable trio.
Metafictional flourishes ('If there are illustrations in this book, I'd prefer that this last part not be shown') keep us amused and on our toes as Potter tackles some (at book's end) serious topics from a position both gothic-cheeky and compassionate.
This is the kind of book that captures readers at the beginning and keeps them in its thrall all the way through.
This book is a winning read. Fans of The Graveyard Book will enjoy it but so will children who look for adventure and reality. It is a cross-genre book that fans of both will enjoy despite the fact it is definitely not really a fantasy.
As I read through Ellen Potter's newest book The Kneebone Boy, I found myself repeating in this awestruck manner 'This book is brilliant.' Both fun and well written and bound behind a spectacular cover.
Otto, Lucia, and Max are the Hardscrabble children, and one of them is the unidentified narrator. Otto, the oldest, hasn't spoken out loud since he was eight, when the children's mother vanished. Their father, Casper Hardscrabble, paints portraits of royal families, returning with stories of their adventures to tell his children. When he sends them to London to stay with his cousin, who turns out to be away on holiday, they make their way to their great-aunt Haddie, who lives in a life-size playhouse castle behind a forbiddingly real castle, once owned by the Kneebone family. From their great-aunt and others, the Hardscrabbles learn about the Kneebone boy, locked away in a tower in the castle because of some unnamed deformity, and decide that they must rescue him.