A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nooks & Crannies, set in 1907 England, is a fun mash-up of haunted-house thriller and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that may be too intense for some kids, with cartoonish, knife-wielding villains, possible murders, secret passages, and lots of things going bump in the night. Also, several sets of parents are pretty horrible people, particularly heroine Tabitha's abusive mother and father, who keep her in squalor while they live large. As the story opens, they're preparing to dump her in an orphanage and flee the country. Readers who can handle this are in for a treat, with an irresistible, intrepid heroine, plot twists galore, and sweet, positive values of family, friendship, loyalty, and kindness.
What's the story?
It's 1907 in London, and 11-year-old Tabitha Crum has a hard life: Her parents spend plenty of money on themselves but give her the worst of everything and treat her like a slave. As the story opens, she comes home from school to find them packed up and ready to flee the country (some mix-up at the bank where her father works, her mother says airily), dumping her at the local orphanage on the way. Plans change when the day's mail brings a fancy invitation from a famous -- and very rich -- countess. Soon Tabitha and five other kids are ensconced in a fabulous mansion, where the knife-wielding countess reveals what they're doing there. Odd things begin to happen, and one of their dining companions suddenly turns up dead. It's up to Tabitha and her newfound friends to dodge the dangers, figure out what's going on, and get out alive.
Is it any good?
NOOKS & CRANNIES is a fun, appealing re-imagining of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme, with a plucky, appealing heroine, relatable kid characters, and quite a few plot twists. Kids with abandonment issues might want to skip this one, as Tabitha's parents in particular are awful people determined to ditch her, and she's trying to make the best of her fate. But author Jessica Lawson's lively style keeps the pages turning, and Natalie Andrewson's illustrations add atmosphere and bring the characters to life. Also, Tabitha's a gem.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme: Seemingly random kids are chosen for some epic prize. Which other stories do you know like this? Why do you think they're so popular? Do you have any favorites?
Do you know any kids who are adopted? Do you think they have to deal with issues that kids who live with their birth parents don't? What would they be?
How would you feel if you discovered you had a long-lost family?
- Author: Jessica Lawson
- Illustrator: Natalie Andrewson
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: June 2, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 14, 2020
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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.