A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: Lane Smith
- Illustrator: Lane Smith
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
- Publication date: May 5, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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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.