Return to Augie Hobble

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Return to Augie Hobble Book Poster Image
Strange, sad, and surprisingly sweet story of friendship.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Interesting facts about wolves, literary references (A Christmas Carol, White Fang), a nod to the history of Route 66.

 

Positive Messages

The world is a strange place, but good friends help make it manageable. Strong emotions don’t mean you’re weak -— it takes strength and courage to feel them deeply and move on.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Loyal, devoted friends put up a united front; several adults and teens look out for Augie, though their efforts aren’t always helpful. Augie is wildly creative, despite failing his art class. 

 

Violence

Child dies unexpectedly, an apparent werewolf pursues and attacks people, bullies harass classmates, an elderly woman is tied up and robbed

 

Sex

Tween sneaks out of house in hopes of meeting a girl.

 

Language

Coarse name-calling: “turd,” “dinkwad.”

Consumerism

References to social media (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube); technology (Polaroid, iPad, iPod, PowerPoint, Google), and other products (including Elmer’s glue,  Popsicles, RC Cola, Velveeta, Chia Pets).

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An unsavory adult playing the part of the Big Bad Wolf smokes a cigarette.

 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Return to Augie Hobble is a sweet but dark story that gets into intense emotional territory. It’s the first novel from acclaimed illustrator and author Lane Smith (Abe Lincoln’s Dream), and it makes clever use of illustrations to tell its strange story. There are a lot of supernatural elements and some violent scenes, including an attack by an apparent werewolf and dream sequences about werewolves. Spoiler alert: A central character dies as a result of a peanut allergy, and a friend believes he’s to blame. These dark notes, and the emotional intensity, might be a lot for some 8-year-olds to process, so we recommend this for a slightly older audience than the publisher advises.

 

User Reviews

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What's the story?

Augie Hobble is spending his summer working with his family at Fairy Tale Place, their down-at-the-heels amusement park in New Mexico. He failed Creative Arts and has to redo his project, but he’s struggling to come up with a good idea. Bullies won’t leave him alone. And after a creepy encounter with a big bad wolf, Augie isn’t sure if the hair sprouting on his body means he’s turning into a werewolf or just going through puberty. When a shocking event completely turns his world inside out, Augie’s world goes black. He’ll need to feel his way out, with courage and the help of a good friend. 

Is it any good?

After an understated start, this odd, dark tale sneaks up on you and hooks your heart. Bullying, friendship, loneliness, and loss are explored against an unnerving backdrop of the paranormal: werewolves, ghosts, clairvoyants, even Bigfoot. With RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE, author Lane Smith -- best known for his work as an illustrator -- takes a lot of risks, and most of them pay off. The story is slow to come into focus: This heightens the emotional punch of an unexpected dramatic turn more than halfway through, but some readers may find the start too slow or surreal. Gentle humor and Augie’s muted optimism help keep things lighthearted.

There’s plenty of Smith’s visual artistry here, too: Illustrations, mostly in the form of pages from Augie’s journal, are key to the telling of this surprising story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of social media in the story -- a Facebook post is first seen as humiliating, and then as courageous. How would you respond if a classmate was ridiculed online? How can you avoid digital drama?

  • Do you consider this a book with illustrations, a graphic novel, or something else?

  •  

  • Do you think Augie’s performance in his Creative Arts class reflects his abilities?

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