Rummanah Aasi
  The cover of Kneebone Boy drew me to the book. The three children on the cover looked like they had secrets to tell. The gothic overtones and the ghost-like figure of a child above them in the trees had me intrigued. Unfortunately, the story within doesn't live up to its fabulous cover.

Description (from the Publisher): Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who's away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal. . . . In this wickedly dark, unusual, and compelling novel, Ellen Potter masterfully tells the tale of one deliciously strange family and a secret that changes everything.

Review: The Kneebone Boy is very reminiscent of the series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. The dark overtones, odd eccentricities, and dry humor are the Hardscrabble children's trademarks. Otto, Lucia, and Max are the Hardscrabble children, and one of them is the unidentified narrator. Once you get comfortable in identifying the children on their own, it is easy to figure out who is narrating the story. Otto is the oldest and wears a scarf that he never takes off and hasn't spoken out loud since he was eight, when the children's mother vanished and uses his own version of sign language to communicate with his siblings. Lucia (pronounced Lu-chee-ah) is the know-it-all sister who loves to be right. Max is the youngest and perhaps the smartest much to Lucia's chagrin. Their father, Casper Hardscrabble, paints portraits of royal families, returning with stories of their adventures to tell his children. When he sends them to London to stay with his cousin, who turns out to be away on holiday, they make their way to their great-aunt Haddie, who lives in a life-size playhouse castle behind a forbiddingly real castle, once owned by the Kneebone family. From their great-aunt and others, the children learn about an urban legend called the Kneebone boy, a boy who has been locked away in a tower in the castle because of some unnamed deformity, and decide that they must rescue him. Instead, their mission leads to the resolution of their own family mystery.
  Despite the intriguing characters, the lovable and at times testy sibling bond, and the fresh wide eyed children perspective, I had a hard time figuring out what this book tried to be. It's neither a fantasy nor does it satisfy as a mystery as the plot meandered and the clues sprinkled throughout the story were touch and go. Though we do learn what happened to the children's mother, we aren't happy by its resolution but actually really sad and distressed. It's really hard to identify the readership for this book but I think readers who like quirky characters might enjoy this book.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Wildwood by Colin Meloy, The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Hm. I just finished a book that left me with a similar feeling Rummanah - I just couldn't quite figure it out, and I reached the end not really knowing how I was supposed to feel. The meandering stories are always a problem for me, I'm so goal-oriented, I like there to be a clear (or the illusion of clear) destination the story is trying to lead me toward:)

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I do love a Series of Fortunate Events, and this does sound like it's very similar. But I hate when stories seem to have no direction and don't quite know what they want to be. I might find that frustrating, but perhaps the characters would make up for it. I'm curious to check this one out and see if I like it. Great review :-)

  3. Oh this sounded like it has such good potential. Sad that it meanders too much. I don't like that in my books. Don't think this is one I will read or recommend. Brilly review tho!

  4. I love the cover of this one and it sounded so mysterious. It's too bad then that the story inside doesn't live up. I was hoping that this one would be a MG novel I could recommend but I guess that won't be the case. Thanks for the review :)

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