Good Neighbors (The Floods Series #1)by Colin Thompson, Crab Scrambly
At first glance, as long as you are at least a hundred feet away and see them from the back on a dark autumn evening when it's raining, the Floods look like any other family.
In their first outing, the eponymous stars of the Floods series, a clan of reptile-eating witches and wizards, make the Addams family seem tame. When they remodel their new house, they bury their "dead and semidead friends and relations" in the backyard and train the growling front gate to keep out unwanted visitors. Their seven kids include a Cousin It-like creature with no arms, four legs and hair on every square inch of her body, including eyeballs and tongue; and blonde, perky Betty, the only offspring who looks ordinary (their mother, Mordonna, longed for a child who would dress dolls up instead of turning them into frogs).Trouble begins with the "neighbors from hell" ("not real hell, where some of the Floods' best friends lived, but hell on earth, which isn't actually a real place, more a state of mind"), nasty people who meet their demises quite handily. Betty transforms the son into a fridge, a deceased Flood relative reaches out from her grave to grab and devour the daughter, and so on. Australian author Thompson (The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley) careens wildly from one extreme scenario to the next, letting the Floods get away with everything-despite their appearances, they're the good guys. Kids can enjoy the prankishness; adults can rest easy given the conventional underpinnings. Final illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Reminiscent of The Munsters television show, this story blends fantasy with reality. A family of wizards and witches, the Floods appear to be a normal, happy household consisting of parents and seven children, but only one, Betty, looks like a normal little girl. Under their house is a vast network of cellars where they experiment with their special magic. The Floods travel by turbo-broomsticks, eat slugs and sugar bats for breakfast, and all of the children except Betty (she goes to public school) go to a special wizard and witch school, where the school bus materializes in one of the cellars. And they are good neighbors. Next door live the noisy Dents, who are slovenly, rude, and constantly fighting. They have a nasty Rottweiler. Ten-year-old Dickie breaks into people's houses, pees on furniture, puts Barbie Dolls in microwaves; Tracylene locks up her boyfriends to keep them from running away. Children will enjoy the humor and unconventional way in which the Floods manage to get rid of their offensive neighbors. The vivid descriptions and believable dialogue provide readers with an understanding of characters and situations. The author uses footnotes to add humorous explanations to the story. Humorous black-and-white drawings capture the characters' antics and personalities. Children will like the exaggeration and ridiculous situations that stretch probability.-Margaret R. Tassia, Millersville University, PA
Read an Excerpt
The Floods #1: Good Neighbors
By Colin Thompson
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Colin Thompson
All right reserved.
At first glance, as long as you are at least a hundred feet away and see them from the back on a dark autumn evening when it's raining, the Floods look like any other family. There is a mom and a dad and some children. They all have two eyes, one head, two arms and two legs, and hair on top of their heads—except Satanella, who has no arms but four legs and hair all over her body.
At second glance, especially if you're less than a hundred feet away and see them from the front, the Floods do not look like any other family. Mom and Dad and most of the children always wear black clothes. Even Satanella wears a black collar encrusted with black diamonds against her black fur. Only the youngest, Betty, is different. Her hair is blond and she wears ordinary, brightly colored clothes and skips a lot.
The Floods are a family of witches and wizards—even Betty, although she looks almost normal. She likes looking different from the rest of them. It makes her feel special. It also lulls the world into a false sense of security. She is the only one of the Floods whom people don't cross the road to avoid.
They even feel sorry for her and say, "Look at that sweet little girl having to live with those weird people,poor thing."
It all started when Betty's mother, Mordonna, decided that six children who were witches or wizards was enough. Valla, Satanella, Merlinmary, Winchflat, and the twins, Morbid and Silent, were each, in their own weird and scary way, the sort of children any witch or wizard parent would be very proud of.
Satanella, for example, is not the family pet. She's actually one of the children, but because of an unfortunate accident with a shrimp and a faulty wand, she was turned into a fox terrier. Although it's possible to reverse the spell, Satanella has actually grown to like being on all fours.
Merlinmary also has hair all over her body,but she is not a dog, even though she does growl a lot and likes chasing sticks.
"I should like a little girl," Mordonna said to her husband, Nerlin, after the twins were born. "A pretty little girl who wants to dress dolls up instead of turning them into frogs. I want a little girl who I cook with and make cakes that taste like chocolate instead of bat's blood."
"But, sweetheart, we're wizards and witches," said Nerlin. "Turning things into frogs and blood is what we do. Our families have done it since the dawn of time."
"I know, and I adore frogs and blood," said Mordonna, "and I love our six wonderfully talented, evil children, who are as vile as your wildest dreams. I just want one pretty little girl to do ordinary mother and daughter things with."
"But you grow death cap mushrooms with the twins and you sharpen the cat's teeth with Valla."
"Yes, yes, I know," Mordonna replied, "and I love all those things, but what about knitting and painting pictures of flowers?"
"What's knitting?" asked Nerlin, but Mordonna had made up her mind. She was going to have one more child, and that child would be a normal, ordinary girl with no magical powers. And instead of being made in a laboratory using an ancient recipe book, a very big turbocharged wand, and a set of shiny saucepans, the way some of the other children had been, this new child would be made the same way as you and I were.
When Betty was born, she looked just like the pretty little girl Mordonna had dreamed of. Of course, being a wizard's child, she was very advanced for her age, and by the time she was three she was helping her mom make soufflés and had knitted a cardigan for her granny, Queen Scratchrot. (The queen, with several other friends and relations, is buried in the backyard and feels the cold on winter nights because most of her skin has rotted away.)
But no matter how "normal" she looks, Betty still has magic inside her. It's mostly little things most people wouldn't notice, like when she reaches for a book way above her head and suddenly the book is there on the table. Or when a glass floats across the kitchen, fills itself up at the tap, the water turning into juice with two ice cubes and a straw, and then floats back into Betty's left hand.
Excerpted from The Floods #1: Good Neighbors by Colin Thompson Copyright © 2007 by Colin Thompson. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Colin Thompson is the award-winning author and illustrator of more than forty books, including the novel How to Live Forever and The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley, winner of the CBC of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award. Born in London, Mr. Thompson currently resides in Bellingen, Australia.
Crab Scrambly's art appears in several books as well as on T-shirts. He resides deep in the bowels of Southern California.
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