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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the lords and ladies of Smugwick Manor -- and quite a few other characters -- are generally a cruel, deceitful lot. There is a wide gulf between those in positions of power and those who are not. Some of the nasties get their just desserts, and the clear message that real class is something inside -- and not a matter of title or possessions.
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What's the story?
One morning, long after her tight corset has made M’Lady Luggertuck into a petty tyrant, she decides to loosen it just a little. The Loosening sets in motion a series of unusual events, from dropped firewood to a planned ball to a series of mysterious thefts. When the Luggertuck Lump, a prized wig, and other items disappear, suspicion falls upon Horton Halfpott, the humble kitchen boy. He sets out to prove his innocence, find the thief, and protect the girl he just might be failing for.
Is it any good?
Elements of Angleberger’s writing style -- asides to the reader, some very dark humor -- are reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but this tale, in tone and plot, is much less grim. Kids will giggle at the Shipless Pirates, who want for even a plank; hiss at M’Lady and Luther’s callous cruelty; and root for the lionhearted Horton to come out the winner. The plot races along with plenty of twists and turns (pauses to provide backstory give readers a chance to breathe). Brief chapters make this a good choice for kids transitioning to longer books. Angleberger has great fun with language, and the dialogue will have kids in fits.
The author’s scratchy, exaggerated character sketches are a great complement to the over-the-top story. Kids will love the glow-in-the-dark cover by Gilbert Ford.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the glow-in-the-dark cover. Why do you think the publisher decided to print the book this way? Did it have any influence over your decision to buy the book?
There is a little bit of violence in this book. Does the book's humor make this abuse less threatening for readers? Is violence easier to handle when books are set in fantasy worlds or in the future?
For kids who love funny stuff
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.