The Kneebone Boy [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...

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The Kneebone Boy

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a dark, witty absurdity suggestive of Lemony Snicket, Potter (the Olivia Kidney books) draws readers into this compelling mystery-adventure about a missing mother. "worn on pain of torture" not to reveal which of the quirky Hardscrabble children he or she is, the narrator writes in third-person with wry first-person asides: "Note to reader: if you ever want your life to turn topsy-turvy, say, ‘Things will go on just as they always--' Oops, I almost said it." Things certainly do go awry for Otto (mute, after his mother's disappearance), take-charge Lucia, and clever Max, when their father sends them to stay with an aunt who's on vacation. Danger follows them to the village of Snoring-by-the-Sea, home to an eccentric great-aunt, an eerie castle, a half-human boy held prisoner––and perhaps the answer to what happened to their mother. Potter's voice is distinguished by sharp, humorous, and poignant observations: " was so solemn. So sad. Was he always like that and she had never noticed?" Often laugh-out-loud funny, this tale quietly solves a deeper mystery: how to heal the hearts of this immensely likable trio. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“The story is fresh, funny and surprising. The sibling dynamics—alternately testy and touching—are believable, as are the wonderfully odd characters from the hulking taxidermist Saint George to the ethereal Sultan of Juwi. A quirky charmer.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

 

“Metafictional flourishes keep us amused and on our toes as Potter tackles some (at book’s end) serious topics from a position both gothic-cheeky and compassionate.”—Horn Book Magazine

 

“Potter’s voice is distinguished by sharp, humorous, and poignant observations. . . . Often laugh-out-loud funny, this tale quietly solves a deeper mystery: how to heal the hearts of this immensely likable trio.”—Publishers Weekly

 

“Dark, delicious, biting, sarcastic, arch, and smart. The story itself is smart—almost deceptively so—and with the many layers, I can easily see this appealing to middle school kids. . . . I shivered with the wonderful deliciousness of it all.”—Elizabeth Burns, SLJ.com

Family Fun

The three Hardscrabble siblings set out to learn the identity of the title character in Ellen Potter's gothic mystery The Kneebone Boy. But it's the trio's longing to unwrap the truth about their missing mom that sets off a grand adventure full of shadowy characters and hair-raising action.
BCCB

What premise could be more compelling than a gothic mystery set to miniature proportions? Lucia's narration is witty and conversational, with an appealingly humble self-awareness when needed. Gentle, pensive Otto is completely as expected, but Max turns out to be a bit of a surprise, mostly because Lucia had previously considered him merely an obnoxious know-it-all and is only now noticing his quite useful ability to puzzle things through...Appealing voice, setting, character, a surprise ending, and a touch of sweetness all add up to a delicious read.
Booklist

Hilarious and heartbreaking, wild and down-to-earth… The combination of fantasy and realism makes a compelling story, and young people will relate easily to the characters' struggles.
Horn Book Magazine

Metafictional flourishes ('If there are illustrations in this book, I'd prefer that this last part not be shown') keep us amused and on our toes as Potter tackles some (at book's end) serious topics from a position both gothic-cheeky and compassionate.
Welcome to My Tweendom

This is the kind of book that captures readers at the beginning and keeps them in its thrall all the way through.
Kids Lit

This book is a winning read. Fans of The Graveyard Book will enjoy it but so will children who look for adventure and reality. It is a cross-genre book that fans of both will enjoy despite the fact it is definitely not really a fantasy.
Kid Lit Frenzy

As I read through Ellen Potter's newest book The Kneebone Boy, I found myself repeating in this awestruck manner 'This book is brilliant.' Both fun and well written and bound behind a spectacular cover.
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
The Hardscrabble kids are weird. Otto doesn't speak and perpetually wears a scarf around his neck; Lucia is shamelessly blunt and fiercely protective of Otto, and Max does his best thinking on the roof of their house in the town of Little Tunks, England. Their mother has been missing and presumed dead for many years and their father, Casper, leaves them for extended periods of time to paint portraits of deposed potentates around the world. Embarking on one of his trips, Casper sends the children to London to an aunt who unbeknownst to him is on vacation. Caught up in the seamier side of London, the trio escapes to the small seaside town of Snoring-by-the-Sea, home of an eccentric great aunt. There they learn of the eerie Kneebone Castle where a young boy with a hideous deformity is held prisoner. The three children gradually solve the mystery as they embark on an adventure to free the boy. Unwittingly they reveal a family mystery. Told by an unnamed narrator (one guesses it is Lucia) the elaborate plot moves briskly with plenty of plot twists and turns to keep readers guessing. The narrator keeps it on all track providing humorous asides to break the tension. Filled with quirky characters it is a blend of realism and fantasy although at time the fantasy does not ring true. Once the Hardscrabbles are at the castle the action bogs down a bit causing the reader to wish the denouement would hurry along. While the resolution is heartbreaking it is comforting to the Hardscrabbles and they are grateful that at last their lives can move forward. The moody cover art of three dark, gloomy children and a five-legged cat will draw readers to pick it up. They will not be disappointed. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Otto, Lucia, and Max are the Hardscrabble children, and one of them is the unidentified narrator. Otto, the oldest, hasn't spoken out loud since he was eight, when the children's mother vanished. 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 Hardscrabbles learn about the Kneebone boy, 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. This odd book doesn't know if it wants to be an "Unfortunate Events" clone or a straightforward mystery. It's certainly not a fantasy, as the narrator takes pains to make clear that anything magical in the book only appears to be magical and has a rational, logical explanation. That makes sense with the rational, logical explanation presented for Tess Hardscrabble's disappearance, which is actually very sad and distressing. Ultimately, there is little to care about here; not the characters, the plot, or the resolution, all of which makes The Kneebone Boy a low-priority purchase.—Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO
Kirkus Reviews

The Hardscrabbles of the English town of Little Tunks--silent Otto, the adventure-seeking Lucia and whip-smart Max--have become accustomed to their shy, rumpled father's absences since their mother's suspicious disappearance. (" 'She's dead,' Lucia said. 'She's gone missing,' said Max.") On one such occasion, Mr. Hardscrabble's miscommunication with a London relative leaves the trio perilously alone in the big city. Barely escaping the clutches of an angry tattooed man, they manage to track down their great aunt Haddie Piggit, a youngish, eccentric American with a penchant for Pixy Stix who lives in a child-sized version of the adjacent Kneebone Castle in Snoring-by-the-Sea. Could she be their mother? Does Otto, the oldest at 13, know and not say? Does the legendary, tower-bound Kneebone Boy really have bat ears? Narrated quite personably by one of the Hardscrabbles who refuses to be identified but is obvious, the story is fresh, funny and surprising. The sibling dynamics--alternately testy and touching--are believable, as are the wonderfully odd characters from the hulking taxidermist Saint George to the ethereal Sultan of Juwi. A quirky charmer. (Fiction. 11 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429941198
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 398,797
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • File size: 239 KB

Meet the Author

Ellen Potter is the author of books including Slob, Pish Posh, and Olivia Kidney. With Anne Mazer she is also the author of Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook. Potter grew up in a high-rise apartment building in New York City's Upper West Side, where she exercised her early creativity by making up stories about the neighbors she saw on the elevator. When she was 11 years old, she realized all the best books were written for people her age, and so she decided to become a children's book author. She studied creative writing at Binghamton University, and then worked many different jobs while continuing to write. She was a dog groomer, construction worker, art teacher, and waitress. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, son and a motley assortment of badly behaved animals.


Ellen Potter is the author of books including The Kneebone Boy, Slob, Pish Posh, and Olivia Kidney. With Anne Mazer she is also the author of Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook. Potter grew up in a high-rise apartment building in New York City's Upper West Side, where she exercised her early creativity by making up stories about the neighbors she saw on the elevator. When she was 11 years old, she realized all the best books were written for people her age, and so she decided to become a children's book author. She studied creative writing at Binghamton University, and then worked many different jobs while continuing to write. She was a dog groomer, construction worker, art teacher, and waitress. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, son and a motley assortment of badly behaved animals.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1
In which we meet the Hardscrabbles, unearth a triceratops bone, and begin to like Lucia even more
There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone. It was the most uninteresting town imaginable, except for the fact that the Such Fun Chewing Gum factory was on its west end, so that the air almost always smelled of peppermint. When the wind blew just right you could think you had been sucked down a tube of toothpaste.
I was the one voted to tell this story because I read the most novels, so I know how a story should be told. Plus I’m very observant and have a nice way of putting things; that’s what my teacher Mr. Dupuis told me. I can’t tell you which Hardscrabble I am—Otto, Lucia, or Max—because I’ve sworn on pain of torture not to. They said it’s because the story belongs to all three of us, and I suppose they’re right, but it seems unfair since I’m doing all the work. No one can stop you from guessing though.
The story will begin on a sparkling, sun-drenched afternoon in July. I think that’s a good time to start because everything is so nice and pleasant at that time, with flowers blooming and birds singing and all that rubbish. You have to start nice and pleasant before you get to the more heart-thumping bits, in which the weather turns nasty and so do the people. And also, the story actually did start on a sparkling, sun-drenched afternoon in July, so I wouldn’t be lying.
On a sparkling, sun-drenched afternoon in July, when the flowers were blooming and the birds were singing, Otto and Lucia were walking home from school arguing about what they were going to do when they grew up.
“We’ll open up a tattoo parlour in Little Tunks,” Otto said.
“Well, that’s fine for you. You’ll be the one drawing skeletons and tigers on people’s bums,” said Lucia, who incidentally looked exactly like her name. If you don’t know what I mean, just picture long, thick, black hair that needs loads of shampoo to make a lather; a delicate, proud nose; and beneath two unapologetically thick eyebrows, dark eyes that were endlessly searching for something interesting to happen. If you think she sounds suspiciously heroine-like, be advised that she has flaws. She had a terrible sense of direction, fought quite a lot with Max, and was on the short side.
“I won’t tattoo bums,” Otto said staunchly.
“You would if someone paid you loads of money,” Lucia declared.
“Not even then,” he said.
“Well … you would if the Queen came in and asked to have her bum tattooed,” Lucia said, since she hated to lose an argument.
Otto and Lucia both silently contemplated this for a few moments.
“I might,” Otto admitted, “just to say that I did.”
Here’s what Otto looked like, because I know you’re going to wonder pretty soon: He was a tall, thin, slippery-jointed thirteen-year-old. His posture was appalling. His shoulders humped and his head drooped down, so that he always looked like he was up to no good. He had shiny, pale blond hair that always swung over his pale blue eyes. Wrapped twice around his neck was a long black cloth scarf embroidered with twisting oak leaves in silver thread. He wore the scarf all the time, in winter and summer. Even to bed. His front tooth was chipped, due to an incident in which he was up to no good.
The other very important thing you should know about Otto is that he didn’t speak. I know I’ve already written that Otto spoke to Lucia, and it’s not a lie really. He spoke with his hands, using a sign language that he and Lucia had devised long ago, after he suddenly stopped speaking at the age of eight. Their younger brother, Max, understood quite a bit of it, because he was fairly clever and extremely nosy; their father had tried very hard to decipher it but rarely could. The teachers never understood him at all but they didn’t make a fuss over it. Truth be told, they were a little bit afraid of Otto. Most people in Little Tunks were.
From here on in, when I write “Otto said” you’ll understand that he was signing the words with his hands. Lucia, on the other hand, usually spoke to him out loud. He could hear perfectly well, after all.
“And anyway,” Lucia said, frowning, “what am I supposed to do at the tattoo parlour?”
“You can console the people who are crying and mop up the blood,” Otto answered promptly.
“Oh, that’s appealing.” Lucia puffed out her nostrils. It was a lovely gesture of contempt that she used quite often. “And anyway, I don’t think there’s much blood involved if you do it properly.”
They travelled through the narrow, winding streets, passing the brick terrace houses, the town park with its small pond and its three bad-tempered swans, and the sweet shop, which was owned by the Pakistani man who gave you back your change in little coin towers, the biggest coins on the bottom. Occasionally, they walked by other kids, also on their way home from school. The kids nodded at Otto and Lucia warily, but none of them stopped to toss them a friendly word, or even a filthy one. As a rule, no one in Little Tunks meddled with the Hardscrabble children. This was 75 percent due to the suspicious disappearance of their mother several years before, 20 percent due to the fact that the people in Little Tunks thought that the Hardscrabbles were strange, and 5 percent due to the Hardscrabble children—the two eldest, at least—being happiest in each other’s company.
“Well, I say we buy a fully rigged ship and sail around the Pacific Rim. We’ll navigate by the Orion constellation, and we’ll search for people who’ve been shipwrecked on islands, then rescue them,” Lucia said. (I’m beginning to think that you are pronouncing Lucia’s name as though it were Lucy with an a at the end of it. That’s wrong. You pronounce it Lu-CHEE-a. Say it a few times out loud and you’ll forget about Lucy-a.)
“You won’t need to navigate by the Orion constellation,” Otto said. “You can use radar equipment.”
“Yes, but maybe I’ll choose to navigate by the Orion constellation.”
“And people generally don’t get shipwrecked on desert islands anymore,” Otto said.
“I know that,” Lucia said, her nostrils puffing again, although not very widely since she hadn’t really thought of that. “But back in the old days, ladies travelled on those ships sometimes. If they got shipwrecked on an island with everyone else, don’t you think they might eventually have children? And then their children might have children, and then there might be a whole pack of them by now, living on seaweed and mud, just waiting for someone to come rescue them. Imagine how excited they’d be to see our white sails fluttering on the horizon.” Lucia’s glittering black eyes were now fixed on the horizon of Little Tunks, which consisted of some grimy terrace-house roofs, the Such Fun Chewing Gum factory’s chimneys pumping out peppermint smoke, and a cow pasture beyond that. “After we rescued them, we’d be on all the telly news shows and they’d put up plaques about us on park benches.”
She glanced over at Otto. He’d shoved his hands in his pockets and looked markedly unimpressed. She frowned, considered, then added, “Of course, it’s likely that there’d be some strange deformities among the stranded people. Inbreeding being such a problem.”
Beneath his overgrown hair, his pale, interested eyes slid toward his sister. “What kind of deformities?”
“Oh, children with hair growing on their faces, people with twelve toes. Like that.”
Otto was an avid collector of the strange and unusual. In fact, he hoped one day to open a museum of abnormalities right in Little Tunks, but he needed to enlarge his collection first. Thus far, he owned three specimens: a two-headed cornsnake; a one-eyed frog; and a lobster with an extra claw on one side, all of which he’d purchased from a catalogue.
“Well,” Otto said, “that’s all right then. But I still think a tattoo parlour is better.”
Suddenly Otto stopped walking. His body stiffened and his hand reflexively yanked his scarf tighter around his neck, something he always did when he was nervous. Lucia looked at him questioningly, then followed his gaze across the street. A thin woman with a cap of thick grey hair was prodding at a small object on the sidewalk with a stick.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Lucia hissed. She grabbed Otto by the elbow and quickened their pace. But it was no use. Mrs. Carnival had spotted them.
“Hoo! Hoo, Hardscrabbles!” Mrs. Carnival called to them, waving her stick.
Ignoring her was no good, they knew. They had tried it before. She would hunt them down clear across town if need be.
Reluctantly, they crossed the road while Mrs. Carnival waited, tapping the stick against the pavement. Her eyes, which were the exact color of bananas when they go thoroughly rotten, fixed on them impatiently.
“Come on, don’t drag your feet, Hardscrabbles! Stand up straight, Otto, I’ve told you a hundred times not to walk like a baboon. You may act the part of the village idiot but there’s no need to walk like one!”
Lucia opened her mouth to shoot back an angry response, but Otto stopped her with a quick shake of his head. He was right, of course. It was no use arguing with Mrs. Carnival. She would always have the last word, and besides, they had to stay at her home several times a year. It wasn’t a good idea to get on her bad side.
As Lucia and Otto came close, Mrs. Carnival turned her attention back to the object on the ground.
“Get rid of this thing,” she demanded, nudging it distastefully with the tip of her stick. “I don’t want to touch it, and it’s spoiling the street.”
It was a robin, tiny and plump and lying horribly still. Otto knelt down next to it. Its thin eyelids were closed except for the tiniest slit, through which a still-bright dark eye gleamed.
Otto shook his hair to the side in order to see better, and with one finger he gently touched the bird’s small russet chest.
“Is it dead?” Lucia asked Otto.
He shook his head no.
“Well, it should be if it had any sense! Flew into my window, the nitwit,” Mrs. Carnival said. “What are you doing down there, Otto? I asked you to get rid of it, not groom it! Oh, get out of the way, I’ll kill it myself.” And she lifted her stick in order to bring the pointed end down on the little bird’s chest.
Swiftly, Otto slid his hand beneath the little bird and scooped it up before Mrs. Carnival could touch it. He wrapped his scarf around it gently and cradled it against his chest.
“Ridiculous boy,” Mrs. Carnival muttered, shaking her head. “Remember to wash that scarf afterwards,” she called to Otto as he and Lucia walked away. “That bird is certainly diseased. I won’t have you staying at my house if you catch something from it.”
“As though that’s punishment,” Lucia said, almost loud enough for Mrs. Carnival to hear. But not quite. Mrs. Carnival was the only person who was willing to take care of them when their father went on his trips abroad. The Hardscrabbles didn’t like her but they needed her. Or Dad felt they did anyway, though I’m sure they were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
Otto cupped his hand over the small lump under his scarf as he and Lucia passed through the heart of town and then turned up a lonely street whose broken pavement tilted this way and that. On either side of the road were a few houses in moderate states of disrepair. Their own house was at the very end of the street, a ramshackle butter yellow house with a wild-looking garden in the front. Ruffled pink and white roses spilled giddily every which way, blue lobelia carpeted the ground, and gangly lilies stretched up toward the sun, their lemon-colored petals unfurled. Arched over the brick path leading toward the house was a rickety arbour that was thatched with bright purple clematis.
A black-and-white cat named Esmeralda was sunning herself on the path, but when she saw Otto and Lucia approaching she popped up and bolted out of the garden and across the road. She wasn’t their cat anyway. She was only one of the many street cats that hung around their house. The cats came when their mother had still lived with them and they still kept coming after she was gone. Their mother didn’t believe in keeping animals, Dad told them, any more than she believed in keeping humans. Creatures stayed as long as they needed to stay, she had said, and when it was time for them to leave, you just had to tip your hat and wish them well.
Ironically, though, the cats never thought it was time to leave the Hardscrabble house. It was really as if they were hanging around waiting for Tess Hardscrabble to return. Consequently, as Lucia and Otto approached the house, they startled six other cats out of the depths of the garden. A seventh, a big fat tabby, had draped itself in front of the door and would not move, so they had to step over him.
Inside the hallway, Otto and Lucia dropped their schoolbags and headed directly to the kitchen, just as they always did, but they stopped short at the entrance. Sitting at the kitchen table was a chubby red-haired girl they’d never seen before. In front of her was a large bowl, into which their younger brother, Max, was scooping chocolate ice cream from the carton. He stopped when he saw Otto and Lucia, and his face grew a little pink.
“Who’s this?” Lucia demanded.
“Her name is Brenda. She’s new at school, moved here all the way from Loughborough, and doesn’t know a soul, so I thought wouldn’t it be a good thing for her to come over.” Max said this very quickly, and there was a pointed tone to his voice when he said that Brenda was new at school.
What followed was a long awkward silence, during which Otto slouched even more than usual and cradled the robin closer to his chest. Lucia flashed an irritated glance towards Max then turned her dark eyes on Brenda. Her expression was stern but kind.
“Did Max tell you that he has a time machine in the basement?” Lucia asked Brenda.
The girl shook her head while Max hastily plopped another scoop of ice cream in her bowl.
Excerpted from The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter.
Copyright © 2010 by Ellen Potter.
Published in 2010 by Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. At the beginning of the book, Lucia is described as someone "who incidentally

looked exactly like her name." Who are some people that you would describe as

looking exactly like their name? Who are some people who don't look anything

like their name?

2. The Hardscrabble children find a mysterious letter from their great-aunt Haddie,

which serves as a catalyst for the protagonists to start a quest to find their mother.

Name a catalyst in another book that spurs the protagonists to action. Name some

other books you've read that involve a quest to find something or someone

important to them.

3. Otto wears his scarf everywhere. Do you have something that you always wear? If

yes, why do you like wearing it?

4. In Chapter 3, the Hardscrabble children find themselves completely alone in

London. "All in all [the Hardscrabble children] were in that gorgeous state of

mind in which they felt free and unafraid and sharply aware of how large and

exciting the world was." When was the longest you've ever been away from your

parents? How did you feel at first? How did you feel after a couple of days?

5. Lucia, Otto and Max have a special language between them because Otto uses

sign language that no adult understands. Do you have a special language or a

certain way of communicating with someone?

6. When the British Hardscrabbles first meet their American great-aunt Haddie,

they're disgusted by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even though it's a very

normal American thing to eat. When have you experienced a similar culture shock

when given a common item from another culture?

7. The author chose to not mention the Kneebone Boy until almost the very end.

What did you think the title referred to while you were reading the book?

8. How do you describe the relationships between each of the Hardscrabble

children?

9. The story of the Kneebone Boy was a legend that was passed down from

generation to generation. What are some legends that you are familiar with?

10. At the end of the book, the Hardscrabble children feel "like something more

should happen." Why do they feel this way? Do you think that this "is how life

works in general"?

11. How do you think the Hardscrabbles' big adventure has changed them from how

they were in the beginning of the book? Or are they still the same "Hardscrabble

kids who live in Little Tunks with their dad and not their mom"?

12. The narrator of The Kneebone Boy is unknown, but the narrator does say that he

(or she) is one of the Hardscrabble children. Which one of the children do you

think the narrator is and why?

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2010

    An Absolutely Wonderful Book!

    The Kneebone Boy is a clever, funny, captivating, and all-around delightful story. The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, are a wonderful, appealing cast of characters, each with a host their own quirks and personalities. Otto is mysterious and silent, wrapped beneath his omnipresent scarf, Lucia is bold and quick-witted, yet not without her insecurities, and Max is highly intelligent and insightful, and always sees the best in people. From the moment the Hardscrabbles embark on their strange and humorous adventure, the reader becomes engrossed in their story. Narrated by one of the Hardscrabbles (we aren't told which one), the story is told in a unique way, relaying the tale while adding personal asides to the reader that are often laugh-out-loud funny. Ellen Potter does a masterful job of telling the story with an engaging writing style, adding in just the right details. From a castle folly to a five-legged cat to impish British expressions, every aspect of the story serves a purpose, to delight and entertain the reader. This book is a wonderful blend of witty and subtle, exciting and touching. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I highly recommend it!

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2010

    A great adventure/mystery with an ending you'd never predict!

    This book is not a fantasy; there is no magic. Weird things happen and you think that they MUST be magical/paranormal/fantastical, but there is a rational explanation for all of it. Weird creaky (not squeaky) rats that run on the same path all the time? Taxidermy-ed miniature zebras? A hole in the floor that goes forever? A cat with five legs? All explained. Well, not the cat, but he's the most believable bit to begin with. Still, this is certainly not realistic fiction. It is precocious-kids-left-on-their-own fiction, or rich-people-are-crazy fiction. Lemony-Snicket-type fiction. Let's just call it unrealistic fiction, shall we?

    Even though they live with their father, the three Hardscrabble children are pretty used to fending for themselves. Since their mother mysteriously disappeared (and both Otto and their father were suspected of killing her and burying her in the garden), their father has been sad. He's also been taking more portrait clients; former royals who have been kicked off their thrones and who don't often pay their bills. Still, the Hardscrabbles manage.

    Adventure upon adventure, the kids all end up in Snoring by the Sea, a small town outside of London, where their secret great-aunt Haddie is staying. They meet a taxidermist who could easily be mistaken for a Viking invasion reenactor, take up lodgings in a castle folly with Haddie, suffer through some ghastly American food (even though Haddie never gets her hands on the "fluff" to make fluff-r-nutters), and hear the local legend of The Kneebone Boy. The local aristocracy, the Kneebones, sent all of their children to grow up in the castle folly, back in the day. That way they adults could do adult things and the kids could do whatever their hearts desired. It also kept the Kneebone children from the oldest child of each generation, the Kneebone Boy, born half-human half-animal. The Kneebone Boy was kept, every generation, locked in a tower in the castle. This is all just legend, of course. But there is something weird going on in the forest surrounding the castle and the castle folly. The Hardscrabbles are certain that the Kneebone Boy is real and that he has escaped, and they're determined not to let him be captured and locked away in his tower again.

    Unrealistic fiction has the most awesome and memorable characters, and Otto, Lucia and Max are no exception. They are all precocious, sarcastic, and quick-witted little monsters, constantly attacking each other, but not in a mean way. They're all just too smart for their own good, or at least each is trying to prove to the other two that he or she is the most knowledgeable of group on any given subject (Max usually wins). Lucia, the middle child but still clearly the leader of the group, is used to Otto going along with her, her ideas, and her adventures, especially as she is his translator. She's also still stuck in the thinking that Max is just little. Too little to be of help, too little to be a friend the way that Lucia and Otto are friends, too little to make decisions for the group. Through their adventure, each of the Hardscrabble children gets more of a will of their own, and instead of making them grow up and grow apart, they realize that they not only need each other but truly like each other as well.


    Book source: ARC picked up at ALA.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    A Very Interesting Book

    This book was very well written, with strong characters, and just the right amount of odd. It kept my attention all the way through, keeping me interested page after page. The ending, though, disappointed me. I felt like there was this great big build up, and then the ending let me down, because I was expecting something more than it was. Overall, though, it's a book worth reading.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Meet the Hardscrabbles

    Meet the Hardscrabbles: Otto is the oldest who wears a scarf all the time and hasn't spoken a word since the day his mother disappeared, Lucia is a hard-headed girl who is perfectly content to take the lead, and Max is the youngest who has a keen eye and never turns down a moment to think. When their father takes off on one of his routine mysterious trips and leaves them with poor instructions, the children suddenly find themselves chasing after clues and answers. With nothing but the clothes on their backs and a five-legged cat, the Hardscrabbles set off on an adventure more important than any one of them could have imagined.

    From the cover art, the tone, the siblings, and the unnamed narrator, there is no denying the similarities of the Hardscrabbles to Lemony Snickett's Baudelaire's. However, the resemblances end there. Ellen Potter quickly creates her own mystery and action to set her apart from her colleague and it works. Her writing is very easy to melt into, the descriptions clear and simple for readers to picture the scenes easily. I found myself attached to all three Hardscrabble kids equally, though there was something about Otto that lingered longer in my mind after putting the book down. Perhaps it was his blond hair and brooding good looks from the cover art that caught my eye. All in all, a good middle-grade book, but nothing that really impressed me.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

    Wonderful book

    I loved Ellen Potter's Pish Posh, so of course I had to read this too. And I absolutely loved it, it was written quite like a Lemony Snicket book, which of course I enjoyed since he is also one of my favourite authors. I liked how the author gave Lucia, Otto, and Max indivisual personalites. I loved the idea of the mystery narrator (I think it is Otto). I like how the ending wasn't exactly happy which made it even more realistic. I couldn't put it down because I was scared I would miss something important. There were also nice funny bits, such as the chapter titles. I think fans of Lemony Snicket will enjoy this book.
    -Ichigo Tachikawa

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    Great book. Otto was my favorite

    So, my friends had all read this book, and kept telling me to read it. Me being diffuclt, refused. But then they kept telling me how much i resemble otto. So, i read the book. And i have to addmit that i see the similarities between us, and how much of an outcast and speculation we both are. But what i really liked about his character, was that the auther put just the right amount of angst into his backstory to where it was believable, not over done, and contrasted nicely with the other people in the book. I really enjoyed this book, because it wasdark and twisted enough to where it kept me intrested, but quirky enough so it kept me entertained.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    Loved this book!!!!

    I loved this book I also had a certain interest in Otto he's quite,shy,and has a love for animals or most likely the strange ones like the five legged cat. I'm still trying to figure out why he always wears that scarf maybe he has an emotional bond to it or somthing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2014

    To is it funny

    Yes it does hve cute funny parts now and then its an awesome book i highly recommend it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    Happy boo boo

    Big boooooooooooooooooooooooo

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    Is it funny?

    Im thinking about getting this. But are there a few laughs?




    P.S. i havnt read it yet, so i gave it one star.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Opinion

    Absolutely wonderful!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    To pleasr! To please read!!!

    This book is about three siblings who are sent to be with a relative in London when their father leaves. The mistery narrator tells about their strange journeys. This book is amazing, it's fast paced, but not rushed. And even though the story is strange, it's not too far fetched.

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  • Posted November 10, 2013

    Rating: 4 Stars Genre: MG Mystery/Adventure Pages: 288 Publis

    Rating: 4 Stars

    Genre: MG Mystery/Adventure

    Pages: 288

    Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

    Check it out: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Good Reads

    Good Reads Summary:
    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.

    This is one of those books that I feel I can recommend with absolutely zero hesitation. It’s entertaining, fun, adorable, suspenseful…you name it. It’s a little bit of a different read for me, as most of the books I read are YA romances of some sort, but I LOVED The Kneebone Boy. It’s just one of those sublimely pleasant books that you pick up, knowing you’re going to enjoy it.

    The Hardscrabble children are enchanting. They are funny, clever, brave, and at times extremely stubborn. I love different Lucia, Max, and Otto are from each other, and Ellen Potter does a masterful job of differing their characters and giving them solidly unique personalities.

    And I just have to share some quotes, because this book so whimsical :)

    First of all, the chapters have these wonderful little descriptions:

    Chapter 9: In which the Harscrabbles worry about the title of this book and other things.

    OR

    Chapter 11: In which there are no vampires or ghosts but you’ll like this chapter anyway.

    I loved those chapter titles. They gave an idea of what was coming without giving too much away.
    The narrative is so informal and entertaining:

    “So we’ve come to the part of the book in which the Hardscrabbles begin to be less ordinary and more heroic. I wish it had come sooner, so you didn’t see us arguing about stupid things so much.” (167).

    It was just so cute. I found myself smiling through the majority of this book.

    Now, there was conflict. There was suspense and mystery, and it’s quite dark at times. I’ve only read one book in A Series of Unfortunate Events but The Kneebone Boy reminded me of that stylistically. Although it seemed happier. I was not expecting the twist at the ending. Quite clever in my opinion.

    This was one of those books that you don’t necessarily feel compelled to fly through, but it’s always a pleasure to pick up and read a chapter at a time. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    Book

    Has anybody else realized that there last name is from monster university

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    :/

    is it wierd to want to meet the charcters then hug them for being so awesome then slap them for all the stupid things they did in the book

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2012

    Please read!!

    What is this book about? Please respond.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    The Kneebone Boy

    Great book loved it!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2010

    Love this Book!!!!

    This is one of the greatest books I've ever read. It is a thrilling, roller-coaster ride that is filled with unbelievable twists and turns. And who doesn't love the element of a mysterious narrator...who may or may not be that mysterious after all. I absoulutley love the characters as well, they are truly unique, but they are also relatable. READ THIS BOOK!!! You won't regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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