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THE WOODEN MILE VOLUME 1: PIRATES…WEREWOLVES…LOST TREASURE AND A SPOOKY HOUSE
Something Wickedly Weird is most definitely here! Crampton Rock seems like a lovely seaside town…at least until dark. When eleven-year-old Stanley Buggles inherits a house from a mysterious uncle he didn’t know he had, he also inherits a mystery and some strange and sinister new neighbors. The questions begin to pile up: Why are all the dogs in town three-legged? Why is no one on the streets after ...
THE WOODEN MILE VOLUME 1: PIRATES…WEREWOLVES…LOST TREASURE AND A SPOOKY HOUSE
Something Wickedly Weird is most definitely here! Crampton Rock seems like a lovely seaside town…at least until dark. When eleven-year-old Stanley Buggles inherits a house from a mysterious uncle he didn’t know he had, he also inherits a mystery and some strange and sinister new neighbors. The questions begin to pile up: Why are all the dogs in town three-legged? Why is no one on the streets after dark? Is it true that the man who runs the candy shop is a werewolf? And why do those shoemakers look an awful lot like pirates? With the help of Mrs. Carelli, a housekeeper, and a talking stuffed fish, Stanley begins to unravel the mysteries that haunt his great-uncle’s death and have set their sights on him. A thrilling, spooky, and funny read, and the first installment of a kid-pleasing new series.
Stanley Buggles, 11, inherits a house on Crampton Rock from a previously unknown relative. Upon arriving there, he discovers that something strange is going on in the village. The dogs are missing limbs, and Stanley is sternly warned to stay off the moors and to be inside before nightfall. Cryptic messages from a talking mounted pike further pique his curiosity, and he becomes entangled with former pirates who want him to kill the werewolf that stalks the village at night (and who in human form owns a sweet shop by day). The pirates have their own agenda, but Stanley decides that he must take care of the werewolf regardless, to safeguard the town and avenge his great-uncle's death. A spare offering, the narrative moves quickly and focuses more on action than character development. Some plot points are problematic: Stanley's main concern after shooting the werewolf is how to explain the missing gun, and the next day Mr. Cake (the werewolf) is fully recovered and thanking Stanley with no explanation as to why. The black-and-white illustrations interspersed with the text are well done, but most readers will want to stick with Philip Ardagh or Lemony Snicket for far-fetched adventures and dark humor.-Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Along the Wooden Mile
In a darkened industrial town, someone weaves unnoticed in and out of the alleyways until he finds the right doorway and forces a package through its mail slot.
This is not the very start of the story. It is simply a convenient place to begin. And you should be warned that when you delve into what has already happened and what lies ahead, you will find this a dark and twisted tale. Good fortune sits in wait around the corner, but grim misadventure lurks sneakily behind.
The package announced itself by landing heavily on the mat. It was addressed to Stanley Buggles. Inside was a short letter and a piece of folded cloth which, when unwrapped, revealed a large silvery-gray key. Not just any old key, mind you, but the key to a rusty, cobweb-covered old secret. A secret that wouldn’t come out on its own but would need coaxing out of its cage like a frightened bird (as is often the way with secrets).
Stanley read the letter. He read it quietly to himself several times and then he read it out loud to the family who had gathered in the kitchen. No one could quite believe it, but there it was in black and white.
Then he held the key across both palms.
It was a strange-looking thing: big and bulky, like something that would open a castle gate, and yet intricately decorated with swirls and scrolls. He placed it back in the cloth, folded it tidily, and put it neatly back in the envelope with the letter.
Stanley Buggles. A sensitive little chap, his mother would say. A young wiry little fellow who could usually be found wandering the woods alone, climbing the gnarled old branches just to get a peek at a hawk’s eggs, or lying in wait in the undergrowth so that he might catch sight of fox cubs.
Like all mothers, Stanley’s longed to protect him from the perils of the outside world, but she knew she couldn’t keep him wrapped up forever. And anyway, he was no pushover. Oh, no. If ever a kid could look after himself, here he was. Stanley could box like a champ. A proper little jackrabbit he was, and like all true champs he had the heart of a lion, along with a mane of stringy blond hair.
And while he had sat one afternoon in the hollowed-out trunk of a tree watching a kestrel circle over an open field, somebody three hundred miles away had sat typing the letter that would change his life forever.
Now, first things first. Stanley had no knowledge of his relative, who was, in fact, the perfect example of a long-lost great-uncle. Except that now he was a dead long-lost great-uncle, which pretty much spoiled Stanley’s chances of getting to know him.
It was decided, when the time came, that Stanley would go on his own to visit the house. His family were far too busy to accompany him at present, and he was far too excited to delay the excursion any longer. He would be put on the train by his mother, Marjorie, and his stepfather, Tristan Fletcher, and he would be met by the housekeeper, Mrs. Carelli, at the other end. She would be staying on at the house and would take care of Stanley during the summer.
Mrs. Carelli informed them that she would be standing on the platform at Crampton Rock station. Mr. Fletcher had described Stanley in his letter so that she might know him when she saw him.
“He is eleven years old, with a pasty complexion and a skinny frame. He will most likely be carrying a large brown suitcase with the words Fletcher & Buggles Manufacturing on the side and looking as if he doesn’t know where he is going.”
“You can’t miss him,” Mr. Fletcher had scribbled at the bottom of his letter, explaining that Stanley was “not really ready for such an adventure at all.”
But as things turned out, he was going to have one, and it was about to land on him with one enormous THUD.
Stanley stared through the window of the train’s carriage. As the train thundered along the tracks, the whole world looked completely still. The sun blazed across yellow fields and Stanley wondered what the place would look like.
When the train eventually ground to a halt, Stanley could see a rickety handmade sign: THIS IS CRAMPTON ROCK. He looked around. From what he could see, the place was deserted and consisted only of the small platform itself. Standing just in front of the sign was a stout woman with large ruddy cheeks and a ridiculous hat. Stanley knew this was Mrs. Carelli. It must be her, because there was nobody else.
Stanley jumped down from his seat. He had the strangest feeling that despite its dull appearance, there was going to be something very different about this place.
“You can’t just get off here, lad. This is Crampton Rock. You needs written permission to get off at Crampton Rock. ‘Tis the law of the land. Let’s see your ticket.”
Stanley looked up to see a smug-looking train guard grinning at him. The ticket was in his hand. He held it up.
“I don’t need written permission, sir. I’m a resident here. I own property. I have the paperwork.” It was the first time Stanley had ever said this. At his side, he was clutching a file of legal documents, which he had held on to for the whole journey. He waved them at the man, who eyed them suspiciously.
“Mmmmmm, go on then. I don’t believe yer, but I’ll let yer go this time.” He clipped the corner of the ticket without taking it from Stanley’s hand and shuffled away.
As he wrestled his case down from the luggage rack, Stanley muttered under his breath, “I hope Mrs. Carelli is more pleased to see me!”
She was. Well, sort of.
“Hello, you must be Stanley,” she called when she saw him step off the train. “I’ll be looking after you at Candlestick Hall. We can talk later, but for now you’ll have to rush along … tide’s coming in.”
And before Stanley could say a word in return, she was walking away quickly on her little feet. Stanley followed on behind, dragging his suitcase awkwardly and wondering why the tide made any difference to anything.
As they walked out through the station exit, the ground in front of them suddenly disappeared. There was a sheer drop down to the sea. Dirt steps had been beaten into the earth and offered the only way down to the bottom. Right where the land met the water, there was a long, winding wooden footbridge that led, presumably, all the way out to Crampton Rock. It was hard to tell. There were several large rocks obscuring the view, and at one point the walkway disappeared through a cavelike opening.
‘“The Wooden Mile, we call it,” said Mrs. Carelli. “When the tide’s right up it’ll be gone.” The water was already dangerously close to the top.
Stanley dropped his suitcase and stood staring. “It’s incredible.”
“It’s only planks, you know. Planks and nails, that’s all,” laughed Mrs. Carelli. “Ain’t nothing new about planks and nails.”
“No, I mean the water,’” explained Stanley. “I’ve never seen the sea before.”
Immediately he thought of home. In the dark town that Stanley hailed from, the coast was a world away. By his bed lay a tattered old leather-bound book, with a page that had been thumbed a thousand times. It held a painting of a rocky beach filled with every kind of seabird. This was exactly the place he had longed to be.
“Well, you’ve seen it now, lad. Most likely you’ll be fed up of it afore too long, just like the rest of us.” And she blustered onward, treading the steps down to the water’s edge. Stanley followed, dragging his suitcase, fumbling and tripping and at the same time, trying to take in the view of the sea.
His suitcase seemed to grow heavier. It crossed his mind to hurl it down to the bottom, but then he pictured some terrible accident with Mrs. Carelli as the victim and thought better of it.
Very soon they were at the bottom of the steps and making their journey across the wooden mile. The surface was wet and slippery, but Mrs. Carelli seemed to glide along. Perhaps she was used to it. It was only when they had passed through a tunneled cave and out into the open that the small island of Crampton Rock loomed down upon Stanley.
A crooked-looking fishing village with rickety houses and bent chimneys stared back at him. Filling the harbor and bobbing up and down on the waves was a crowd of wooden boats. He was able to pick out the spire of what appeared to be a small church, huddled in among the rest of the buildings. To its left, one place particularly stood out: a large house of blackened stone with a stepped roof. A scattering of little windows peered out like torchlights from the darkness of the brickwork.
“There you go, young Stanley. That’s Candlestick Hall.”
He stopped in his tracks. There it was, the place he had been waiting to see. The place he had dreamed of. There was something gloomy and dark about it, yet his heart drummed excitedly at the thought that the place was now his. It was nothing like he had expected: to start with, he could never have dreamed it would be so big.
A bird flew from the roof and drew his eye to something else. Something he didn’t like. It landed on what he recognized as a gibbet, on a nearby hilltop. He had seen one in a book: a gallows, from which people were hanged in times past. This one held a rounded cage, and in it were the spindly skeletal remains of a single human life.
Mrs. Carelli glanced back and noticed him looking.
“Don’t worry, Stanley,” she said kindly. “Tis only the remains of some rotten scoundrel.”
Stanley shivered. “Who was it?” he asked.
“Pirates,” she answered. “Sometimes we get pirates here. They pass by this way and we would rather they didn’t. ’Tis only there to serve as a warning.”
“Is it real?” asked Stanley. He had never seen a dead body before.
“Oh, he’s real all right! From the tip of his hat to the soles of his shoes, he’s real.” She laughed and then, seemingly unconcerned, she turned and walked the last few boards up onto the harbor wall, where some of the villagers were waiting.
“But what happened to him? How did he … die?”
Too late: Mrs. Carelli was already out of earshot and had begun talking to somebody.
Stanley looked back and watched the waves washing over the wooden walkway as it slowly began to disappear. There was no going back. Not now!
Text and illustrations © 2007 Chris Mould. First published by Hodder
Posted March 25, 2009
Mould, C. (2007). Something Wickedly Weird: The Wooden Mile. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
Stanley, as the youngest living relative of his great-uncle, inherits the deceased man's hall and all of the wackiness of the people who live in the town of Compton Rock. Stanley leaves home without his busy parents to take possession of the immense Candlestick Hall and is greeted by unusual characters and strange rules, one of which is "don't go out after dark."
The story includes a lot of humorous and quirky characters, including a talking fish, a mean candy-seller, and three disgruntled pirates. The pirates insist Stanley help them end the reign of a local werewolf, but Stanley soon learns that the pirates have more planned for him than that.
In terms of the writing, humor and illustrations, The Wooden Mile feels and looks a lot like A Series of Unfortunate Events, but with slightly fewer vocabulary demands. With illustrations included on every few pages, the book is a pretty fast read, building a young reader's confidence (or providing an advanced reader with a fun break).
This book is, of course, the first in a growing series. Cause a novel can't stand alone anymore. Ever.
Activities to do with the book:
This is a book that is probably best to be read for enjoyment. Although the series could lend itself to comparison with similarly themed books (such as A Series of Unfortunate Events) if a teacher really want to provoke a conversation. At the very least, Something Wickedly Weird could be a book recommendation for students who have finished all 13 of the Series of Unfortunate Events.
"This is not the very start of the story. It is simply a convenient place to begin. And you should be warned that when you delve into what has already happened and what lies ahead, you will find this a dark and twisted tale" (pp. 7-8).
"I always sleep well," announced Stanley. "It's the thing I do best" (p. 45).
"He couldn't help thinking how ridiculous it seemed. Three vicious pirates, all wanting to get rid of one man-yet they needed the help of an eleven-year-old boy!" (p. 89).
For more of my reviews, visit sjkessel.blogspot.com
Posted August 27, 2008
Eleven-year-old Stanley Buggles just received a mysterious package. Inside was a large, old key and a letter from the Mayoress of Crampton Rock. It seems that Stanley had a long lost great-uncle who just died and left him a house. Now Stanley is off to visit Candlestick Hall for the summer under the watchful eye of Mrs. Carelli, the housekeeper of Candlestick Hall. As he arrives on Crampton Rock, Stanley realizes right away that he¿s in a strange place. For one thing you can¿t even set foot on the harbor without showing proof he belongs there. For another the whole town shuts down at dusk and no one ventures outside after dark. As Stanley continues his daily adventures he inadvertently gets caught up with a trio of pirates who are up to no good. Now they have Stanley convinced that there is a real live werewolf loose on Crampton Rock and Stanley is the only one who can save the village from the beast. The Wooden Mile is a great children¿s book. It has all the elements of a story unique enough to hold a child¿s interest in reading and have them eager to learn what Stanley is up to next. I really enjoyed this read and I know it will appeal to children who are the recommended reading age of 9-12 and their parents will approve. I can¿t wait to read Something Wickedly Weird, vol. 2: The Icy Hand.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 8, 2008
I've seen reviews likening this to the Lemony Snickett books. I don't agree. I find those books to be unrelentingly dark and dismal. This story is much lighter, happier, and a lot more fun - at least to me. And, the illustrations are wonderful. The story is suspenseful without being too scary. It looks like there are going to be at least 6 books in this series. Highly recommended for young readers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 27, 2009
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Posted October 14, 2008
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Posted July 15, 2014
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