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 Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, a tour-de-force collaboration between gothic storyteller M.T. Anderson and illustrator Eugene Yelchin, is the tale of an annoying, snooty little elf in a unitard (the title character) who's sent on a perilous peace mission (including quite a few perils he doesn't know about) to the kingdom of the goblins. Also of goblin Archivist Werfel, who gets the unhappy task of looking out for his ungrateful little guest, and a whole lot of treacherous plots in which they're both unwittingly involved. There's a lot of comically creepy violence, including grotesque illustrations and a character who keeps getting fingers chopped off every time the king's upset with him. Central to the story is the fact that in the wake of catastrophic wars, the elves and the goblins have very different versions of recent events and who did what to whom -- which are being carefully manipulated by those in power to launch new conflicts, murders, and more. There's also quite a bit about cultural differences, and how they can get you into trouble if you're not paying attention.
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What's the story?
THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE finds the title character, a nervous, disagreeable elf in a unitard, dispatched to the goblin kingdom with a precious gem the elves hope will dissuade the Great Ghohg from attacking them. His goblin host, the Archivist Werfel, has big hopes for cultural exchange and scholarly discussions, but his kind hospitality is sorely challenged as his annoying guest refuses to be pleased by anything, and Werfel's life is on the line if anything goes wrong. Between Spurge's breathtaking social cluelessness and the fact that each side blames the other for past wars, there's a yawning pit of peril on practically every page -- and both the elf and the goblin overlords have evil plots in which our two reluctant heroes are pawns.
Is it any good?
Author M.T. Anderson and illustrator Eugene Yelchin deliver a tour-de-force tale of friendship between a self-important elf and a kindly goblin, imperiled by cultural differences and evil plots. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge switches up narrative viewpoints as the storytelling veers between text and graphic installments, with plenty of opportunities to observe how different people can see the same events completely differently -- and perhaps figure out ways to develop a shared perspective. Along the way, there's a lot of comical gore, and lots of opportunities to observe how fear distorts your perspective, and how things get weird fast if you misunderstand cultural differences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories that use both words and pictures to tell their narrative -- sometimes very differently. How do you think The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge would be different if it were only words, or only pictures?
Can you think of an example where someone's trying to manipulate or persuade someone else, and spins the facts in a way that might not be entirely truthful? What was the situation? How did it work out?
Cultural differences can really mess you up in social situations, like in the story, when the goblins insult each other as a form of endearment and the elf gets it very, very wrong. Have you ever had one of those moments? How did you deal with it?
- Author: M.T. Anderson
- Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candelwick
- Publication date: September 25, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 544
- Available on: Hardback
- Last updated: April 24, 2020
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