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Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe

Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe

3.5 2
by Scott Gustafson

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A gorgeously illustrated glimpse into the mind of a young Edgar Allan Poe.

When young Eddie is falsely accused of destroying the Judge’s chicken coop, he is given one day to find the true culprit. Guided by logic, but entranced by the poetry of the paranormal, Eddie seeks to solve the mystery, along the way meeting Captain Mephisto, a


A gorgeously illustrated glimpse into the mind of a young Edgar Allan Poe.

When young Eddie is falsely accused of destroying the Judge’s chicken coop, he is given one day to find the true culprit. Guided by logic, but entranced by the poetry of the paranormal, Eddie seeks to solve the mystery, along the way meeting Captain Mephisto, a darkly unusual magician who has tricks up his sleeve—and maybe a demon on his back. With help from his Raven and the prodding of a mischievous imp, McCobber, it is no wonder that Eddie grows up to become a master of the macabre.
Scott Gustafson crafts a finely wrought portrait that is both humorous and touching. Coupled with his stunning gothic illustrations, Eddie is sure to win fans young and old.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gothic themes mix with cheeky conversations and slapstick humor in illustrator Gustafson's entertaining authorial debut, which imagines a childhood for Edgar Allan Poe in which the writer's Imp of the Perverse isn't just a metaphor for the root of bad behavior—it's an actual imp. As a young orphan, Eddie inherits his father's mischievous demon, McCobber, and befriends a talking raven, who offers the budding poet practical guidance "forevermore." Eddie's foster parents, the Allans, tolerate his oddities until a nighttime prank seems to incriminate Eddie, who turns detective in self-defense. Gustafson (Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose) offers a playful mixture of dialogue styles, ranging from McCobber's "Why, you yolk-brained moron!" to Eddie's formal, "You, sir, have crossed a line!" Interracial relationships weave through the story, which is set in slave-owning Virginia; Dap, an elderly house slave who knows plenty about unjust punishment, befriends and guides Eddie. Poe enthusiasts will appreciate literary references, while the uninitiated will enjoy an introduction that's tinged with the frightful and fantastic—just how Poe would like it. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
This engaging journey into Eddie Poe's early life laces imaginative fiction with fact and history to discover the artist's instinct to become the "Master of the Macabre." Eddie has his own "Little Imp of the Perverse" as well as a treasure attic full of odds and ends that fire his imagination. Unfortunately, Eddie's actor parents died and left him and his siblings to be taken in by loving, or not quite so loving, families. A dream leads Eddie directly into trouble as his cat and the neighbor's rooster are tied into a pillowcase (Eddie's, of course) and left fighting on a weather vane. The neighbor, a judge, is out for justice, or possibly vengeance, while Mr. Allen, in whose home Eddie lives, agrees with the accusation that Eddie must have done it. A bargain to clear his name in twenty-four hours gives Eddie time and introduces him to a master magician who respects him and helped his beautiful English mother. Eddie is an entertaining character while his supporting cast of wise butler Dap, feisty imp, quoting raven, and well-trained magician's menagerie provide plenty of laughs. Fantastically illustrated by the author to show character, historic period, and Poe's imagination, this book makes Poe come alive as both a person and a writer. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Accused of playing a prank on his neighbor, an angry judge, young Eddie must try to clear his name in this novel inspired by the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. Aided by an impish demon and a talking raven, the boy eventually discovers the real culprit: a traveling magician who becomes a true friend. The mystery provides a solid framework to introduce the personality of young Poe, along with some facts about his boyhood. Suspense builds as Eddie investigates, and the truth behind the "demon" that the mysterious magician uses is a satisfying surprise. At the same time, the narrative follows Eddie's rampant and often macabre imagination, which seems appropriate for a future creative genius. Black-and-white pencil drawings appear on most of the pages with varied placement, creating a strong visual atmosphere that matches the humor and mild spookiness of the story. The prudent raven and the mischievous imp, both inspired from Poe's later work, are the only elements that cross over into fantasy, neatly representing the morbid and the logical strains of his writing. Gustafson's language and his illustrations are both playful and engaging, making it easy for readers to slip into Eddie's odd, but intriguing world. Kids who already know who Poe was may be the ideal audience for the book, but others will quickly get a sense of the famous author's persona and how the incidents of Eddie's childhood match up.—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
Kirkus Reviews

Accused of having stuffed a cat and a rooster into his pillowcase and hung it on a neighbor's weathervane, young Eddie Poe has only 24 hours to find the actual culprit before being thrashed by his adoptive father.

This imagined incident from the famed writer's early-19th-century childhood introduces the dreamy poetry-writing boy, befriended by a raven and bedeviled by a personal demon he calls McCobber.Eddie dramatizes every situation, imagining himself a medieval knight and a doomed prisoner. But, as a supportive house slave suggests, he has to use his head to find the perpetrator of this prank, which has angered their neighbor, an influential judge. Woven neatly into the plot is an account of a period playhouse performance featuring the aging magician Mephisto who turns out to have helped Eddie's mother before her death.The whodunit mystery and suspenseful wait for Eddie's exoneration will keep readers turning pages. Gustafson plays with Poe's language: "And who in this household... has not been ripped from sweet slumber by the predawn crowing of that fiendish fowl?" Unfortunately, jarringly contemporary-sounding words and phrases such as "chow time," "pizzazz" and "goofy" break the spell. The author's terrific, atmospheric black-and-white illustrations appear on nearly every page.

An inventive if not quite convincing introduction to the master of the macabre.(Historical mystery. 8-12)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The town, the street, and the houses were all dark and quiet, all except one. In the attic window of the Allan house, a candle burned as the young Edgar Poe grappled with a rhyme. His ink-stained fingers clutched a quill that scratched out yet another unsatisfactory verse, while his other hand propped up the head of the struggling poet. The wondrous words that had crowded his brain earlier that night were gone. They seemed to have slipped through his fingers and flown out the open window into the night, or at least, wherever they had gone, they were now beyond his reach.

Just a few short hours before, he had crept up the stairs to this makeshift attic study for a nightly rendezvous with his imagination. At that point the words, his words, had come to him so fast and furiously that he had barely had enough time to scribble them down. The rush of creativity had made him feel as if he were flying. He had soared on the wings of inspiration. Every word that had flowed from his pen had felt absolutely perfect, landing with grace and beauty upon the white page.

But now, as he read and reread those same lines, they stiffened, curled up, and died—becoming lifeless black squiggles on the shroud of paper. In disgust he ripped the offending scrawl from the roll of otherwise clean paper, crumpled the piece, and then tossed it into the graveyard of similar wads that lay at his feet.

“Ah, why don’t you just quit!” a small, unpleasant voice rasped in the boy’s ear. “Call it a night and hit the hay. Or, better yet, let’s climb up onto the roof and howl at the moon!”

“Arrgh!” Eddie flopped backward into the dusty upholstery and exhaled a frustrated sigh. “Where did it go? I almost had it. The words were right here. . . . They were so sweet. . . . Now they’re not only sour, but they’re rotten and they stink!”

“Ah, maybe you’re all washed up!” the voice tossed in.

“Shut up, McCobber!” Eddie ran his fingers through his hair and, sighing once more, sank farther back into his chair. “Some help you are.”

“Nice way to talk to your old pal,” McCobber said, pretending to be hurt. “Why, who is at your shoulder day in and day out, helping you through all the hard times by offering you his many centuries’ worth of sage advice?”

“Hmmm . . .” Eddie was not listening. He was watching as the flickering candle flame made the strange shapes of Uncle Galt’s collection appear to move and breathe.

His foster father’s rich uncle had a passion for collecting. Years ago, long before Eddie had come to live with the Allans, Uncle Galt had started what learned men called a “cabinet of curiosities.” He had filled it with fossils, natural specimens, ancient relics, and whatnot. But long ago the collection had outgrown the cabinet, or even a closet, and it was now stored in the back rooms of several buildings that Uncle Galt owned, as well as here in the Allans’ attic. John Allan called it a rat’s nest, and had it not been for all the favors he owed the old man, he would have gladly chucked every scrap of it into the street.

Eddie, however, loved it. The dusty fossils, the moth-eaten specimens, the musty antiques, and the sooty old paintings all held secrets from past lives. That was one of the reasons Eddie had carved out a little niche for himself up here. He found inspiration nestled in the moldering decay.

Eddie’s thoughts drifted as he absentmindedly ran his fingers over the battered face of an old devil puppet that hung from the rafters near his chair. It was part of a set of hand puppets once used by a traveling puppeteer. Eddie had seen a show something like it on a street corner when he was younger.

“I’ll bet you were a real star in your day,” Eddie thought out loud. He smiled at the gruesomely funny features. “You probably saw more of the world from your puppet stage than most humans ever will. . . . If you could only talk. . . .” He sighed.

“Yeah,” McCobber interjected sarcastically. “I bet that would be fascinating. Hey, maybe he could tell us what it’s like to have sweaty puppeteer fingers wiggling around in your head.”

On second thought, Eddie decided, maybe it was best that this devil couldn’t speak. Eddie personally had more talking devils than he needed.

McCobber stretched. Looking from Eddie’s shoulder into the night, he yawned and said, “Aaahh, it’s late, laddie. Maybe that little prince of darkness doesn’t need his beauty rest, but I—YONNIE CO-HONNIE, DID YOU SEE THAT? THERE’S A MONSTER OVER THERE!”

Eddie shot forward in his chair and peered out the open window. Across the backyard in the boardinghouse next door, all was dark—with the exception of a single light burning in a lone window.

“Where?” he asked. “I don’t—”

“THERE!” McCobber shouted. “LOOK! There’s a monster in that house, I tell ya!”

Eddie watched in horror as indeed a truly monstrous shadow moved across the drawn window shade.

“I told you!” McCobber yanked on Eddie’s ear and waved wildly. “Look at that hairy fiend, will ya! That’s no man. It’s not even an animal. It’s . . . It’s some kind of . . . a . . . a . . . a WEREWOLF! Just look at it hulking around over there. By Godfrey, I hope it doesn’t come through that window!” The little imp was frantic now and barely able to keep his balance on the boy’s shoulder.

“Look, look. . . . What’s it doing? It just lunged for something. CRIMONETTELY! It just caught a poor little bird in its clutches . . . and . . . and . . . Ahhh, jeez! Did you see that? That horrid creature just swallowed a wee, helpless bird! It was HORRIBLE. That big shadow just swallowed the little shadow. Oh, ICCK! . . . WAIT! WHERE’D HE GO?” McCobber’s horrified eyes bulged from their sockets. “I bet he saw us! Jeez-loweez. I just know it! He’s comin’ for us!”

The poor imp dove behind Eddie’s collar and peeked out. He cried, in a fear-strangled whisper, “Quick, Eddie boy! Douse that light!”

Suddenly there was a rush of air, as a flapping black shape burst from the darkness and landed on the sill next to them.

“AAAAAHHHH!” McCobber screamed in Eddie’s ear, the boy started.

“Are you boys still up?” It was Eddie’s pet raven, returning from a late-night outing.

“Whew.” Eddie exhaled in relief. “Raven, it’s just you!” He took another deep breath and hoped his heartbeat would slow to a normal rate.

“What’s going on?” Raven asked, smiling. “You lads look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“We’ve just seen an evil bird-eatin’ monster, that’s all!” spat McCobber.

“Up to your old tricks, eh, Mac?” The raven shook his head. “Listen, Impy, why don’t you lay off and let the kid get some sleep? It’s a school night, you know.”

“Why, you yolk-brained moron!” McCobber growled. “I wish you’d land that fat feathered carcass of yours on the windowsill across the way there. Then we’d see how smart you are. . . . Go on. Once you’re a midnight snack, we can all get some peace!”

“What windowsill?” Raven asked, looking across the yard at the dark houses. The window was now dark.

“That one over there, it . . . ,” McCobber began.

“Forget it,” Eddie said, shaking his head. “It was probably nothing.”

He capped his ink bottle, then stretched and yawned.

“Raven is right, McCobber. It’s time for bed.”

McCobber started to protest, but the boy cut him off—“Say good night, McCobber”—as he picked up the candle.

“Ah, good night,” he snarled, “but I hope that monster finds you where you sleep and drags you flappin’ and screamin’ from your snug little nest—”

“And a good night to you, too, McCobber.” The raven smiled. “Sleep well, Eddie.”

“Good night, Raven.” Eddie had crossed the room, had lifted the trapdoor, and was heading down the narrow attic stairway.

“By the way, Satan Junior,” Raven called in a loud whisper from the windowsill, “how about you keep a lid on the nightmare action so Eddie can get a little rest tonight.”

McCobber started fuming.

“Just say good night, McCobber,” Eddie said quietly as he descended through the floor.

“Why, you . . .” were McCobber’s parting words, and the light from Eddie’s candle was lost behind the closing door.

The raven chuckled softly, then cocked his head and listened. Leaves rustled outside the window. Pushing off, the raven caught the tail of a breeze that carried him into the night.

© 2011 Scott Gustafson

Meet the Author

Scott Gustafson has illustrated Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose, Classic Fairy Tales, Alphabet Soup, and Peter Pan. Eddie is his first novel, and he lives in Chicago.

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Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this for school a mystery not as good as i thought but ok i guess
Anonymous More than 1 year ago