A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Short chapters make this a good choice for kids transitioning to longer books. Kids who like funny books should see our recommended list for other fun choices.
The comically awful Luggertucks demonstrate that wealth -- and class -- is illusory. The hardworking, honest, and openhearted characters are the ones who shine most brightly in the end. There's also the sentiment, however, that nasty people deserve to have bad things happen to them.
Positive Role Models
Horton is a solid hero -- faithful, patient, clever, persistent -- and the much-sought-after Sylvia is a refreshing heroine. Despite her wealth, Sylvia is no privileged, self-absorbed ornament; her freethinking spirit pairs well with Horton's sense of duty and honor.
Violence & Scariness
The cook, Miss Neversley, berates Horton and the other servants and beats them viciously with a spoon, and young Luther Luggertuck also abuses the staff. Luther is marched by pirates off a plank into the mire, where he is believed -- briefly -- to have drowned.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.