Three siblings: Otto, Lucia, and Max; the story is told by one of them, but the teller has been sworn not to reveal him or herself by the other siblings. They live with their dad in a small town in England where they were long ago labeled the weird kids of the town, but only because their mother mysteriously vanished and/or died before they were old enough to really remember her, and the super-tall and oldest brother Otto never speaks and always wears a scarf. The nasty theory is that he strangled his own mother with the scarf in a rage of madness, and their father covered it up to protect his son.
With The Kneebone Boy, American author Ellen Potter lets loose her anglophilia and successfully hijacks the magic of the long and storied history of British children’s literature, from Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis to Roald Dahl and J. K. Rowling, that she clearly loves so much; except there is no magic in The Kneebone Boy. Our unidentified narrator makes this ever so clear from the outset, lest we end up disappointed.
Oddities? Does the rumored existence of a boy born with bat ears and fur all over his body and locked in the top chamber of a crumbling old castle sound normal to you?
Mysteries? If a missing mom and a furry boy locked in a castle aren’t enough mysteries for you, then you are a tougher reader than me.
Adventures? Would getting in a fight with a tattooed thug while stranded in the streets of London parentless count? How about exploring the treacherous secret passageways of the aforementioned crumbling castle, perched on a cliff overlooking the sea?
With all that, who needs magic?
Told by one of the cleverest narrative voices I’ve read in a long time and abounding with the weirdness, mystery, and plot twists of the children’s books I grew up loving, this is the first book I’ve read in a while that made me genuinely excited about children’s literature written primarily for children. For that, and even though and maybe actually partly because of the fact that this book probably won’t win any awards, it was my favorite book of 2010.
Review by Josh Whiting, Granite School District Library Media Department
Rating: Five Stars
Interest Level: Grades 4+
The Kneebone Boy
Written by Ellen Potter
Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: September 14, 2010