Linus and Julia Easterday find themselves in the strangest situations. Repeatedly. And it’s their own fault. “How many other kids our age have Natty Bumpo living in their attic?” Linus complains. And yet, how many other twelve-year-olds know Quasimodo and the Count of Monte Cristo personally? It all began when Linus and Julia, fraternal twins, moved in with their Aunt Portia and Uncle Augustus after their lepidopterologist parents journeyed to the newly discovered island of Stu (named after it’s discoverer, Stu Cranston, of Hohocus, New Jersey) for at least five years to study never-before-seen butterflies. Aunt Portia and Uncle Augustus Sandwich run an antiquarian bookshop. Seven Hills Rare Books attracts customers as eccentric as its owners. (If Aunt Portia, who wears a tiara in her fuzzy, apricot colored hair, thick glasses and cowboy boots, can be considered eccentric. We won’t get into Uncle Augustus. He does, however, drink a lot of tea, eat a lot of sandwiches, and tends to talk with Jesus at any time – even if you happen to be standing in front of him.) Seven Hills, housed in a three story stone townhouse, was once a magic shop owned by second-rate magician Harvey Blackstone. What most people who inhabited Rickshaw Street didn’t know was that behind the dusty front window arranged with faded top hats, dusty wands, and scattered cards, Harvey Blackstone conjured up something truly magical. So magical he disappeared one night. About a month after the children moved in with their relatives, they discovered Harvey’s magic laboratory through a hidden door in the closet of the back bedroom of the third floor. A circle had been burned into the middle of the scarred wooden floor. As it happened, Julia decided to read up there one night when she couldn’t sleep. She’d reclined on the couch and fell asleep while reading her Bible and occasionally sneaking a peek at a novel. As happens sometimes, her arm flopped to the side and her book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, dropped onto the floor. At 12:03 a.m., the circle began to glow, then pop and hiss and spark like fireworks. Julia woke with a start. At 12:05 a.m. the sparks settled down and there sat Quasimodo and my goodness, he wasn’t happy at all. Or perhaps he was simply scared to death as he had not yet gotten out of his bell tower and suddenly, poof, there he is in the twenty-first century. How long the visitor stays depends on how fast Julia can read the book, cover to cover. If it’s a doozie like Les Miserables, matters can get quite sticky, and believe you me even the shorter books give the twins a great deal of trouble. Imagine having the Frankenstein monster around even for just a day. The bulk of the story is the children’s: how they deal with a raging sea captain in present day, how they manage to get a hunchbacked recluse into the sunshine or a babbling Danish prince to the psychiatrist – and what lessons they take into life.
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Since I work with elementary school kids, I read a lot of middle grade and children's titles. When I saw the blurb for this on NetGalley, I was immediately intrigued; I mean, the book promised magic, and fictional characters in the modern world, and adventure! It pretty much screamed "your students would love this!" And now that I've finished it, I really think they will. This book was a lot of fun to read.The book has a bit of a Lemony Snicket feel to it, in that it's told from another narrator's point of view (in this case, a custodian at the University's English Department, who's a bit of a curmudgeon), and also explains the definitions of larger, less-known vocabulary words (I was a really big fan of this, especially when his definitions got a little snarky). He tells the tale of how Linus and Ophelia, who are twins, and their friend, Walter, get caught up in an adventure due to a mishap in an enchanted attic that winds up bringing Quasimodo forward in time, right out of the pages of Victor Hugo's book. He has all of these pretty funny asides, where he goes off on tangents about the professors of the English department, or when he thinks people are boneheaded, and it's all done in a very humorous way that I think kids would love. I know I did, and while I'm not a kid, I am definitely a kid at heart, so there you go.I loved the description of the twins, especially how they complemented each other but were quite different. I also loved the little back story of Walter, and how he's using his trip to the US to turn over a new leaf and do things differently. And Father Lou, the neighborhood priest, was likewise entertaining, particularly the bit about how he used to be a bounty hunter. All of the characters were so unique, with these little idosyncracies that made them really stand out on the page (or e-reader, in my case). And then, of course, you have Quasimodo, who was really such a gentle soul that I couldn't help but love him.The adventure in this book comes courtesy of the deadline imposed on the magic, which says that Quasimodo must be returned 60 hours after he first appears in the world or he'll die. Several things end up having to happen in order to make sure things turn out all right, and this is heightened by the fact that it's raining cats and dogs throughout the book, and the dam is not in the best of shape. So you have this urgency (even though I was pretty sure everything would turn out just fine, this being a kid's book and all) that makes you want to keep reading just so you know everything will be okay. As I said before, I just really had a lot of fun with this book.If you're looking for an easily accessible middle grade book, definitely check this one out. It will introduce students to the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and give them a really fun adventure filled with excitement and magic (not to mention talk about how people shouldn't be judged by their outward appearance). I will definitely be purchasing this title for my library and book talking the stuffing out of it!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.read more
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Sometimes, a book that is so very well written and entertaining, needs no introduction nor words... every kid out there should read this book! This book, and eventually series, should be in every classroom/school! The story is narrated by a disgruntled janitor from Kingscross University; the storyteller is full of humor and insight. I really did enjoy having him jump in at times and give us his two cents and would explain words and phrases that a middle grader may not fully understand the meanings to them yet.The story begins with twins, Ophelia and Linus, having to go stay with their Aunt and Uncle while their parents go off for 5 years to a remote island to study rare insects and butterflies. In their boredom, they venture around and explore their new 3 story-home - down the stairs is their Aunt's used book shop, the basement is where their Uncle's old collection of costumes and antiques are stored... and then one day, they go upstairs and find a hidden door that leads them to the enchanted attic!Upon finding the attic, they unearth many trivial bottles filled with unknown powders and liquids, curious books and unique drawings on the floor. All of these things that once belonged to the previous owner - a mad magician that practiced apothecary, who had disappeared a few years ago. One night while Ophelia was reading her book in the attic, she got curious with her surroundings, and while looking around, she dropped her book onto the floor at the exact moment that something magical was aligning up! In the next moment, Quasimodo appears!How did Quasimodo come out of the book???The rest of the story is about getting to know people, trying to do the right thing and standing up for what you believe in and not being afraid.How will they help Quasimodo get back into his world???And will they be able to help Quasimodo and change his story for the better???My only issue with this book is probably just a typographical error - the summary states that the twins are twelve years old, but as you read the story, it continuously says that they are fourteen. Since this is an ARC, I believe that it may just be a typo. The children in this book do seem to be mature, so I am going to say that they are fourteen, it just makes better sense to me...I highly recommend this book! Especially for advancing middle graders that are taking the leap from beginner chapter books to those thicker ones, and for those who have an early interest in writing.read more
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Adult novelist Samson (The Passion of Mary-Margaret) jumps into the middle-grade kid lit pool with a fun fantasy steeped in classic literature. Fourteen-year-old twins Ophelia and Linus Easterday are left in the care of their aunt and uncle by their parents, itinerant lepidopterists who sail off to the island of Willis to study butterflies. In the home of their Uncle Augustus and Aunt Portia (also twins) the younger twins discover an attic. It's connected to the previous homeowner, the scientist Cato Grubbs. When bookworm Ophelia uses the attic as a reading retreat, she discovers that life can imitate art when the character Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame materializes in the attic. Narrator Bartholomew Inkster brings Lemony Snicket-like irony to frame the story. Self-conscious chapter titles ("Welcoming the Character that Rounds Things Out") and references to literature throughout the narrative make this a feast for middle-grade book lovers. Kids who like quirky adventure stories with idiosyncratic characters will enjoy a simpler kind of fun. Ages 9-12. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.