Tag Archives: Gregory Funaro

Excalibur is where?

OddAquaticum

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for allowing me the chance to read this. This is a Netgalley eBook review.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Series: Odditorium
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (January 5, 2016)

I am torn in this book. On the one hand it is a good solid second installment in an interesting steam-punk fantasy filled with magical robots, mythical creatures and a great bad guy. On the other hand some of the same problems I had with the first story are still here. Mr Grim is hard to relate to and our main character Grubb is as well. In fact the best characters are the supporting ones. Warrior Banshies, ninjas, spoilt faries and mad witches. The main character is a boy, but the strong female characters almost steal the story. The novel has an ever expanding cast of characters that collect a bit like the Oddita.
This story can drag a little and was hard for me to finish, which worries me about many of my younger readers. However, once I reached about the half-way mark the action picked up and it was interesting. This story wasn’t a hard read, and it is age appropriate in Lexile level, but it just didn’t grab me.
If someone asked for the second book we will buy it, but series are tricky things. They take up a lot of space on our shelves and unless it is wildly popular we tend not to carry many long running series preferring great stories that stand alone.

Parental Note: while the blood and gore is relatively ‘off screen’ Alistair takes on a bit of a darker role in this novel. He is Grubbs father and role model, but he does not make a very good one. In fact I wonder if Grubb is in more danger from Alastair than our Dark Prince. Some of that is explored, but given how abusive Grubbs childhood was, I kind of want better options for Grubb (and seriously, can he get a different name?)

Grubb’s Odditorium

GrimmOdditorium

Alistair Grimm’ Odditorium

By Gregory Funaro

(412 pgs) hardback

Disney Hyperion Press, Jan 2015

Grades 2-5

 

This book caught my eye more because of the strange title than any other reason.  The cover is similar to several recently published junior fiction novels, and I do like the word play used throughout this book.  This is longer than many junior fiction books but page size is smaller as well as font choice make this closer to a three hundred page normal sized novel.

Our main character is a young boy of twelve or thirteenish named Grubb.  I do not know if this is an intentional reference on the author’ part towards other young boys given names like Ged and Odd, simple names that hide their true identity, or if it was the author’ love of word play, but I did like it.  Grubb is apprentice to a nasty chimney sweep in London England, sometime in the betwixt times of the industrial revolution and horse drawn carriages. The story is a little like Howels Moving Castle (the novel version NOT the anime one) meets an Edwardian Indiana Jones.

This story will appeal to boys probably more than girls, but there is a wonderful, brave, young female trickster character named Cleona.  There are many, many, quirky characters (the Scottish attack pocket watch, chocolate loving fairies, and robot bats and samurai to name a few)  Great world building, and fascinating ideas (magic as science is a theme I do like ).  I even like the rather chaotic and strange way the characters go about getting from here to there.

I guess my main problem with this story is it one giant set up for the next book.  Apart from a few  great action sequences, the reader stumbles and falls through the story trying to understand what is going on and very little is solved or accomplished.  Explanations are an afterthought and I feel that many of my middle grade readers will get frustrated with the sometimes archaic language and choppy mish-mash of worlds and archetypes (European, to Japanese, to Native American).  But then again I have been wrong before about what will appeal to our younger readers.

Parental note, as far as objectionable material for young readers, there is none.  Well, a few street hoodlums get their soul sucked out and turned to dust, and Grubbs’ foster father is not a nice guy.  Generally the story is age appropriate and quirky enough to keep readers reading, even while scratching their heads.