A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the blackest of black humor, and not for any child who will take it literally. For instance, 1-year-old Diabola strangles a cat and tosses it out the window, hitting her father on the head and knocking him into a flowerbed. If your kid will feel badly for the cat, this probably isn't the right book.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The Cuthbertson-Joneses are surprised when the Mrs. has twins. But they are soon horrified when they discover that while one is perfectly good, the other is perfectly evil. Inadvertently named Angela and Diabola at the christening by the shocked minister, their natures are apparent from the moment of birth, when Angela coos and smiles beatifically, and Diabola nearly bites the nurse's thumb off.
But far worse is yet to come, for as the girls grow up, Diabola's destructive evil breaks up their family and destroys their home -- and that's all before she starts school, where she begins to discover that she has some unusual -- and frightening -- talents.
Is it any good?
Wicked is the operative word here, more wicked than anything Roald Dahl ever came up with. The humor is as wicked as Diabola, and though children often delight in bad children in literature, Diabola is bad on a level they won't admire or envy. Though this is presented as a middle grade novel, not all middle-graders are ready for it. It requires the ability to appreciate very dark humor (Mrs. Cuthbertson-Jones is sent to jail after toddler Diabola wrecks a store, the father runs away, the vicar attempts an exorcism), and to understand allegory.
But for bright fourth-and fifth-graders and older readers, there's a lot to chew on for this is not just Diabola's story. Angela has the power of goodness but also the curse of perfection, and the relationship between the sisters is complex and layered. For the right kids, this is both hilarious and thought-provoking.