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The Kneebone Boy Paperback – 20 Dec 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish (20 Dec. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312674325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312674328
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,007,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for "The Kneebone Boy": "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.” --"Family Fun" “A quirky charmer.” --"Kirkus Reviews, " STARRED review "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

"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

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""

About 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.


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Format: Paperback
I'm not exactly sure how I came to find this book on the Amazon site, but I am thrilled that I did. Here's why.

This book works as a mystery, as an Enid Blyton style adventure, as a fantasy, as a bittersweet memory piece, and as meta-fiction. How's that for a double hat trick?

The book is ostensibly a story being told after the fact by one of the Hardscrabble children. Accordingly, many observations and asides are aimed directly at the reader, as a reader, including a number of observations about the difficulties involved in telling the story and writing a book. Usually I don't care much for this device because the authors who do it, (from Pseudonymous Bosch to David Foster Wallace), usually can't resist being cute, coy or patronizing. Well, in this case the author is charming, observant, generous and briskly efficient. There is an awful lot of deadpan humor, and this is the first middle grade book I've read that can be described as "droll", where that's a good thing. I just have not read, recently or maybe ever, a book like this with such an engaging and charming narrator.

Now, that alone is enough to recommend the book. The plot is clever, the adventure is in the grand style, (hidden passages, a castle, a tiny castle folly, secrets and discoveries, and so on). The solution to the mystery is satisfying. And, as a bonus, many of the secondary characters are well developed and interesting. Even more, just the conversations among and between the Hardscrabble children are entertaining.

But, here's the real bonus. This is a story about older brother, middle sister, younger brother. Each has a very distinct personality, and each personality is tweaked to avoid the usual conventions.
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Format: Hardcover
Luckily, I have a policy of only reviewing books that I have read completely, or I would have given this story two stars based on the writing style alone, and I would have missed a mind-blowing ending. I was still disliking this story-line two-thirds into the book (I kept wondering when we would get around to the Kneebone Boy), but at the same time, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I was hoping there would be something that would make the annoying narrative worth reading.

The story is set-up as one of the three Hardscrabble children writing a tale about a personal adventure, under the guidance of a teacher. While the writer is to remain anonymous, it doesn't take long to figure out which child is most likely the author. The problem I had with this approach is that it really did seem like a child wrote this book (so, technically, Ellen Potter is a talented author), and I was sick of having the story interrupted by the narrator addressing the reader directly (cheesy interjections, and some on the insulting side). This seemed to dumb-down the book, rather than add to it. The constant explaining of events, as well as the brief summary of things to come at the start of each chapter, slowed down the pace of the story.

Otto is the oldest of the Hardscrabble children; he keeps a scarf wrapped around his face, he doesn't speak, and he signs in a way that only Lucia and Max can translate. Lucia is the middle child, and seemed to have a harsh personality. Max, the youngest, is the deep thinker. Their dad, Casper, travels quite a bit, and leaves the children in the care of Mrs. Carnival. Their adventure begins when an arrangement for their care falls through and they decide to search for a mysterious great-aunt.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 38 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant Little Book 13 Nov. 2010
By The Invisible Pam - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Kneebone Boy" has gotten all sorts of **starred** praise and it well deserves it in my opinion. It's a book that manages to be whimsical and magical, and yet realistic and emotionally moving as well. It's one of my favorite books for the year. Up there with The Last Summer Of The Death Warriors. (And if you haven't read this other book, get to it. It's a marvelous YA read.)

Ellen Potter's writing is thoroughly British and very witty. The kids are quirky but lovable, and their discussions with each other are intelligent and filled with filial warmth. (I'm perfectly bored with your usual dysfunctional family at this point, so this was salve for the soul.)

Their story is a two pronged Gothic thriller. One fork being what exactly happened to their mother-- who suddenly disappeared one night; the other being who is the mysterious Kneebone Boy in the mansion they come to live near.

I'd write more but I think the less said the better. This is a book to just pick up without much foreknowledge, so you can be swept away trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Great read. Great fun. Suitable for Middle-graders and YA and even older folk.

Pam T~
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Unusual Hardscrabble Kids 7 Aug. 2010
By Kate Coombs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book feels like Coraline meets The Penderwicks. Maybe with a little Lemony Snickett thrown in for good measure. The Kneebone Boy is dark and wry and clever and convoluted--which is pretty much what its three main characters, two brothers and a sister, are like.

Otto hasn't spoken in years; he communicates with an invented sign language that only his siblings understand. Otto always wears a black scarf that his missing mother left him. Lucia (pronounced the Italian way!) uses her imagination to get them in trouble, though the boys seem capable of finding trouble without her help. And Max knows so many things that he gets on people's nerves just a tiny bit even though he isn't actually a show-off. The author cheerily makes all three kids good-looking, but then, they are still social pariahs because they are just plain weird, plus there are some creepy rumors floating around about what happened to their mother.

As for their father, every so often he goes on trips to paint portraits of eccentric deposed royals, leaving his children with an awful woman who makes Max squeeze the oily cyst on her neck. But this time, they are going to stay with their aunt in London. Only--she isn't there. Instead of going back to Little Tunks, the three kids stay in the city. They soon have a scary run-in with a Londoner and decide to make their way to a seaside village in search of their great-aunt, who turns out to be a colorful young woman renting a folly that's a replica of Kneebone Castle for the summer. The folly is only accessible by aerial bicycle. (How else would you cross the moat?)

Which only begins to hint at the over-the-top details in this book, not to mention the shivery gothic mysteries. The biggest one is what happened to the kids' mother. Why did she leave, and where is she now?

The Kneebone Boy simply oozes atmosphere. In fact, I was shocked to discover that the book is not a paranormal or a fantasy, after all, although some of the elements are pretty outrageous. Frankly, The Kneebone Boy seems to be crying out for some magical murk. Well, I suppose there is one little bit, but the author tosses it in and basically announces, "Here, I'll bet you want a ghost."

Then, after a good many twists and turns, a veritable funhouse experience, the ending feels a little anti-climactic because, well, All Is Explained. And this is the kind of book where you kind of wish it weren't.

Yet Potter has created three marvelous characters, and her style alone is worth the ride. (This American author does British quirk better than most Brits, up to and including mocking Americans and their bizarre love of peanut butter and jelly.) Besides, you've gotta love the surreal little version of the real world she has concocted. Hmm. Maybe The Kneebone Boy is magical realism. Or something close to it. In any case, I hope the author writes another book about the unusual Hardscrabble siblings!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun quirky adventure 7 Oct. 2010
By Jennifer Donovan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book promised to be delightfully quirky, and it is! I had not ever read anything by Ellen Potter, but she was definitely on my radar after reading a few reviews of some of her earlier works.

The Kneebone Boy is the story of the Hardscrabble children. Otto, Lucia, and Max range in age from 13 to 10. Their mother "went missing" years ago, and their father travels frequently for his work as a royal portrait artist. When their father goes out of town on this particular trip, they are sent to London to visit their cousin, and that's where the adventure begins.

There are so many things to like about this book, and so many things that will appeal to middle grade readers:

1. The cover -- It's compelling, but even more than that, it's 100% accurate! This is not something to be taken for granted. I can imagine children flipping back and forth from the descriptions in the book to look at the cover the whole time they are reading it (Why can I imagine that? Well let's just say that I did my fair share of flipping!).

2. The tone -- The story is told from the POV of one of the Hardscrabble children: "I can't tell you which Hardscrabble I am, 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." (ARC page 2). I don't think it's a mystery. Any semi-observant reader knows by the end who the narrator is. The story is told in this chatty style throughout, with all sorts of personal asides. It would make a great read-aloud, but it I would think that this type of storytelling would be easier for a reluctant reader to follow as well.

3. The adventure -- It's not everyday that three children end up on their own in a city, adopting a strange pet along the way, living in a castle folly, meeting estranged relatives. . . . This is an adventure story, but a realistic one.

4. The delightfully Dickensian chapter titles -- "In which the Hardscrabbles worry about the title of this book and other things," "In which there are no vampires or ghosts, but you'll like this chapter anyway," "In which something awful happens, but I can't say what it is." Don't overlook the titles when you are reading.

Content Note: There are one or two uses of a mild swear word, but it is pretty much free of objectionable content for kids in 3rd or 4th grade and up. I think it's a perfect fit for an older middle-grade reader, which I appreciate as the parent of an older middle grade/young YA reader. I love that a clever, thoughtful, funny, adventurous book like this is available to tempt children to be children a while longer, instead of teen wannabes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably good in every way 13 Jun. 2012
By Pop Bop - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not exactly sure how I came to find this book on the Amazon site, but I am thrilled that I did. Here's why.

This book works as a mystery, as an Enid Blyton style adventure, as a fantasy, as a bittersweet memory piece, and as meta-fiction. How's that for a double hat trick?

The book is ostensibly a story being told after the fact by one of the Hardscrabble children. Accordingly, many observations and asides are aimed directly at the reader, as a reader, including a number of observations about the difficulties involved in telling the story and writing a book. Usually I don't care much for this device because the authors who do it, (from Pseudonymous Bosch to David Foster Wallace), usually can't resist being cute, coy or patronizing. Well, in this case the author is charming, observant, generous and briskly efficient. There is an awful lot of deadpan humor, and this is the first middle grade book I've read that can be described as "droll", where that's a good thing. I just have not read, recently or maybe ever, a book like this with such an engaging and charming narrator.

Now, that alone is enough to recommend the book. The plot is clever, the adventure is in the grand style, (hidden passages, a castle, a tiny castle folly, secrets and discoveries, and so on). The solution to the mystery is satisfying. And, as a bonus, many of the secondary characters are well developed and interesting. Even more, just the conversations among and between the Hardscrabble children are entertaining.

But, here's the real bonus. This is a story about older brother, middle sister, younger brother. Each has a very distinct personality, and each personality is tweaked to avoid the usual conventions. But these three siblings are totally supportive of and loyal to each other. There is a lot of amusing banter back and forth and some conflicts played for laughs. But overall it is clear that they admire each other, they care for each other and they are willing to protect and defend each other. I can't tell you how many books I've read for middle graders where the siblings either ignore each other, or subvert each other, or are just mean to each other. It was remarkably refreshing to have characters who worked as a team, who forgave each other, and who rooted for each other. What a bonus.

So, I don't know where this book has been hiding or why it hasn't gotten more buzz, (Feiwel and Friends is a small publisher, but it's an imprint of MacMillan). Maybe the book was viewed as too literary or a little too idiosyncratic for a big marketing event. Whatever the reason, if you're reading this you've found it now, and that is a very good thing. At a minimum, try the free sample first chapter above. You'll be glad you did.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great adventure/mystery, with an ending you'd never predict! 26 Sept. 2010
By Lawral Wornek - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
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