“Horton Halfpott” by Tom Angleberger

May 9, 2011

(This review is also posted at the Book Nook Club, a group blog to which I contribute.)


(Disclosure: I did not receive anything for reviewing this book. I bought it, and the only discount I got was because I have a Barnes and Noble membership card. I do consider Tom Angleberger to be an online friend, and did receive an ARC from him for Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run a couple of years ago.)

On Friday, I found myself in the bookstore and spotted the display for Horton Halfpott, and cursed myself for forgetting that the release date had come for that. Naturally, I grabbed a copy.

The full title of the book is Horton Halfpott, or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor, or The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset. The cover glows in the dark. This, by the way, is only the fun that you get to have before opening the book.

This story is a whole lot of fun. As the titles suggest, the story starts as M’Lady Luggertuck wears her corset a little less tight one day, setting off a strange feel in the air, which sets off all kinds of peculiar events. These culminate in the theft of the Luggertuck family treasure, and all manner of chaos and mayhem as the crime is investigated.

Make no mistake, this is definitely kidlit. It’s written at a great level for children. Were I to choose a primer for the later reading of Dickens, though, this would be it. If Charles Dickens himself wrote a piece of modern children’s literature, I think it might look a lot like Horton Halfpott. Being a huge Dickens fan, by the way, I do not say this casually.

Horton Halfpott himself could well be a Dickensian protagonist. He’s a hard-working, loyal-to-a-fault kitchen boy in Smugwick Manor who gets caught up in the mystery and a plot to kidnap the young lady Celia, a young lady from nearby with whom he falls in love. The boy is every bit as lovable as Oliver Twist, which is saying quite a lot.

The villains and various scoundrels around the story (the head of the kitchen, the Shipless Pirates, etc.) are a true joy to read. The story is a delight. Tom’s Acknowledgments credit Charles Dickens with inspiring the story, and it really shows. The sympathy for the poor and downtrodden, contempt for the rich and stuck-up, and celebration of the wealthy and compassionate are so very enjoyable.

The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, though. Whenever the story turns to romantic thoughts, the narrator assures us that he won’t dwell on such things too much. We are assured once that while Horton was dwelling, the narrator won’t do so.

When my wife and I are reading in the living room, we will frequently read a sentence or passage out loud because it’s so well-written, so expressive, or otherwise worth sharing. I must have read a quarter of the book to my wife, and I felt like I was being too selective. In a way, I think I should have just read the book out loud to her.

Having read all four of Tom Angleberger’s novels (two of which are written under the pseudonym Sam Riddleburger) — The Qwikpick Adventure Society by Sam Riddleburger, Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run by Sam R. and Michael Hemphill, and The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom A. — I feel like I need to comment on his writing style. In all cases, the narration is a lot of fun. But he has not used the same voice in any of them. The other three books have been in wonderful first-person narration, but by very different characters (Yoda having been by more than one character). Horton uses a wonderful third-person narration brilliantly executed in order to maintain the humor of the story.

Coming in at 206 pages and with plenty of Tom’s illustrations, it’s a pretty quick read, and well worth the time. This is a feel-good book that carries on the Dickensian spirit without the work of getting through Dickens’ language. Even so, Tom’s use of wordcraft is every bit as enjoyable.

A heartily-deserved five stars.

(Addendum: I have been told that sometimes I need to tone down my reviews to keep from seeming like I’m so excited to gush … I just can’t do it for this one. I really love this book.)


Cast your vote!

October 22, 2010

For the most vile political ad of 2010!

I have three nominees, here, and I’d love to see what you think (assuming that anyone is still even looking at this blog).

If you’ve seen an ad worse than these three, then I’m sorry. But let me know, and open it up for voting, too.

This stuff makes me glad that I don’t have cable, and don’t get subjected to political ads.

So, without further adieu, here’s Nominee #1, from Kentucky’s Jack Conway vs. Rand Paul race. The ad from Jack Conway 2010 is called “Why?” …

So, there we are … college stupidity, clearly (assuming that it’s true). But does it really mean that he’s some kind of devil-worshiper today? Really?

Nominee #2 is from the group called Latinos for Reform, which is actually a Republican named Robert De Posada. The ad itself has been pulled, but here’s a story about it and an interview with the reprobate. Hat tip to Hysterical Raisins for bringing this candidate to my attention.

Don’t vote? This isn’t trying to engage in the battleground of ideas, this is trying to bypass it. This is actually un-American and anti-democratic.

Nominee #3 is from Colorado, when a pro-life group is depending on hatred of Pres. Obama and fears of money and such to make its point. Hat tip to Joel at The Church of Jesus Christ for that one.

This one pains me, because I probably support the amendment. I’m a fan of personhood endeavors and want to see such amendments passed. But not because Pres. Obama is the angel of death bringing hell behind him and looks like a Batman villain. Because of respect for life. Whoever put this ad together seems to have missed that aspect entirely.

By the way, I’d rather not debate that issue on this blog. Just making a point …

So, there we are. The three most disgusting political ads I know for this year.


Well, here’s something …

August 15, 2010

If John can do it, then so can I!

Today at Market Basket, I bought some incidentals. I don’t usually do a lot of shopping on Sundays, but we needed a couple things.

I picked up two 5lb. bags of sugar (Market Basket brand)

a gallon of 1% milk (also MB)

a package of red leaf lettuce

a package of spinach

six small tomatoes

a bottle of Krud Kutter rust remover

Tuesday Morning

February 2, 2010

I love Tuesday mornings.

My local library has story time at 11, so I bring Eagle (and Zidgel, of course) over there and we read some books, sing some songs, and then end the session with some coloring (usually) or another craft. It’s fun.

My little halfling loves the library, and it’s certainly a good thing. I figure that if she knows the librarians at this age, that we’re setting her up for some good habits.

My wife is able to come every other week … she works late on alternate Tuesdays. This isn’t one of those Tuesdays, but that’s okay.

Last night, I failed to finish The Dark is Rising. I’m halfway through the last chapter, but the two kiddos kept me busy until late enough that I was falling asleep while reading. It really is a good book, I just keep falling asleep while reading it because I’m reading on the wrong side of midnight.

In other news … in speaking to Eaglescoutjonathan at church on Sunday, I found a new title that I’ll have to use some time. He pulled out the contents of one of his pockets (I don’t remember why). He had 56 cents and a ball bearing. “Fifty-six cents and a ball bearing” has a lot of potential as a short story title, possibly a poem.

I just have to write it, now.

Book Review: The Qwikpick Adventure Society

January 29, 2010

(Reposted from my previous blog. Originally posted on March 5, 2008)

I don’t remember how I first wandered across the blog of Sam Riddleburger, but it was shortly after I started this blog, and I’ve enjoyed reading it tremendously. Enough so that I really wanted to read his book, The Qwikpick Adventure Society. He’s discussed various aspects of children’s literature, from John Christopher (author of the Tripods trilogy) week to the political orientation of Dr. Seuss’ widow, the name of one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are to the travesty that was Disney’s “The Black Cauldron” (I suspect that no one in the studio had read any of the Prydain Chronicles … and don’t get me started on what they did to A Wrinkle In Time).

I had my sons for their school break over the last week of February, and I had determined that my 9-year-old son was finally going to read a book. He’s well into the “reluctant reader” category, and his mother doesn’t really get involved. She reads to him, but doesn’t push him to read on his own. I’ve struck out with The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and many other books that I thought would be big hits. However, I decided that Qwikpick was too promising to pass up. Read the rest of this entry »