Monday, December 21, 2015
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
As hard as I try to read everything that is published for the middle grade market, there are always books I miss. I love it when authors contact me personally about something I haven't seen, ESPECIALLY when they take the time to read my Review Policy (right there, on the right!) and to use proper polite letter form! Fantasy books are rarely my personal favorites, so when I can understand a fantasy book and enjoy it, it's sure to be a winner with my students. The sequel to book one, Alistair Grim's Aquaticum, comes out 5 January 2016, so if you're looking for a last minute holiday gift for a fantasy fan, I'd buy Odditorium and then plan on picking up Oddaquaticum to have on have for when cabin fever attacks after too many snow days!
Funaro, Gregory. Alistair Grim's Odditorium
January 6th 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
Copy provided by the author
Grubb was abandoned as a baby at the house of the Smears. Mrs. Smears is fairly nice, but she passes away when Grubb is six, and Mr. Smears keeps the boy only because he can be useful in his chimney sweeping business. When cleaning chimneys at the local pub, Grubb manages to cause quite a commotion, and ends up stowing away in a carriage, since he knows he can never go back to Mr. Smears. When the carriage flies, however, he doesn't know quite what to make of it! He is discovered by the kindly Nigel, who tells him that he is now in the Odditorium. This is a collection of odd individuals in an even odder building, and Grubb is warned not to notice too much. Mrs. Pinch, the housekeeper, gets him cleaned up, and he hears Cleona talking to her uncle, Mr. Grim. Grubb also ends up in possession of a talking watch, Mack, that glows blue with "animus", and that's the start of a cataclysm of trouble. When Grubb is out and about with Mack in his pocket, his pocket is picked and the dogs of doom are unleashed. Nigel says that things will probably be okay, but when the two return, they are given handbills to pass out that announce the opening of the Odditorium. Mr. Dreary is pressuring Mr. Grim to open even though he is not ready, and the results are catastrophic. The dogs of doom alert their master, Prince Nightshade, and soon the shadesmen attack the Odditorium, trying to retrieve the animus for their dark master. Mr. Grim sets the Odditorium flying, and soon Grubb is catapulted into a world of banshees, sirens, shinobi warriors and other creatures, few of which have his best interest at heart!
Grubb's start as an overworked orphan in Victorian England is a good way to start this book; Mrs. Pinch and Mr. Grim seem kindly by comparison, and no matter how hard he is asked to work, the jobs are much easier than sweeping chimneys. The Odditorium is a big mystery to the people in London, since it has been shrouded during its construction, but the fascination with oddities and supernatural elements was significant during this time period, so is a perfect fit.
The characters are well-developed and rather fun. I had hoped for a bigger role for Mrs. Pinch, whose habit of losing her spectacles and her exasperated utterance of "Blind me!" made me think that she was more powerful than she seemed. I just wish she had been used more. Nigel has a fascinating backstory which also rings true for the times, and even though I was a little disappointed that Cleona wasn't more of a friend for Grubb, there was a compelling reason for this!
Akin to Stroud's Lockwood and Co., Haberdasher's Knightley Academy or the New-York Circulating Material Repository in Shulman's The Grimm Legacy, the Odditorium is a fascinating venue of magic and mayhem in which readers will gladly lose themselves.
Since fantasy is not my favorite thing, and I find that lists of characters add a daunting quality to a book (thank goodness the list was at the end, not at the beginning with a map-- that usually causes me to run screaming!), I would have preferred that characters such as Mrs. Pinch and Nigel would have had more roles, and fewer characters would have been introduced once the Odditorium took off flying. Also, I'm never fond of main characters suffering from wounds and/or passing out (as in Nielsen's The False Prince and sequels), and Grubb manages to pass out at least three times. Still, I'll definitely be looking forward to the next book, which is reviewed tomorrow!
Posted by Ms. Yingling at 6:30 AM