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 Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd (A Snicker of Magic), is a good-natured tale about oddball siblings who lose their home in an explosion and need to find housing while waiting for their parents to return from an archeological adventure. The Problim kids are creepy in an Addams Family kind of way, each possessing traits associated with their days-of-the week names. They play with spiders, experiment with plants, make fog, and pursue legends while they dodge the dangerous neighbor who wants them sent away to "seven different continents." This is the first book in a planned trilogy.
What's the story?
In THE PROBLIM CHILDREN, seven siblings are flung into adventure when their house mysteriously "kabooms." Each of the seven kids, from flatulent toddler "Toot" to responsible, sunny Sundae Problim, is named after a day of the week. And each kid has some magical talent. Sal (named after Saturday), for example, can grow plants that cling to people's ankles. Mona (Monday) is "fair of face" but prone to trickery. Wendell (Wednesday) is good with water, and Frida (Friday) speaks in poems. But Thea (Thursday) is trying to figure out her purpose and awkwardly crafts a path separate from her twin, Wendell. All of their lives change dramatically when they have to leave their swampy home and become part of the town that's cast their family out.
Is it any good?
This charming, clever romp is chaotic and fun but not as well-crafted as it could have been. Solutions to problems pop up out of nowhere in The Problim Children (one of the kids finds a deed to a house in a box -- exactly when they need a house), and assumptions are made (like, everybody in the book knows what a "circus spider" is, but the reader has to figure it out ). The characters are adorable, but only Thea's and Wendell's feelings are fleshed out, and the character point of view shifts constantly, lending the story a disorganized feel. Solutions to problems come too quickly at times, or not at all.
And yet, there are moments of beauty -- like the way the sunsets and forests are described. The landscape feels real. The kinship among the Problims is sweet and believable. And it's a fun read. Though the ending arrives without warning, there's enough intrigue in the plot to keep the reader wanting more. For those who are charmed by the Problims, there will be two more books in the planned trilogy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the kids in The Problim Children compare to misfits and weirdos in TV shows and movies. What makes them outsiders? Is it because they have different interests than other kids? Or are their family values different than those of "normal" families? Who decides what "normal" is?
Thea talks about how life gets turned upside down in an uncomfortable way when you're 13 years old. Is 13 always awkward? Or have you read books where saying good-bye to childhood turned out well?
The Problim kids are unchaperoned and home-schooled. How do they manage it? What do they gain by not having to go to school? What are they missing?
- Author: Natalie Lloyd
- Illustrator: Julia Sarda
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: January 30, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, iBooks, Kindle
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