By Mira Bartók
ARC paperback, 450 pages
2017, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763691219 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: September 26
The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures houses creatures that are not quite animals and not quite humans and is run by the malevolent Miss Carbunkle and her allergy-ridden (and aptly named) henchman Sneezeweed. At The Home, the creatures, known as groundlings, toil away in Miss C’s widget factory and suffer through hideous lessons like how to be better servants. One groundling, known only as Number Thirteen, has a desperate wish to find out where he came from – all he has is a scrap of a baby blanket, a gold key and the memory of a song. When he saves a new student from a group of bullies and she renames him Arthur, after the great king of old, he finds his courage and starts his quest to discover where he came from.
This is an adorable middle-grade fronted by a timid character who learns to stand up for himself and embrace his hidden talents.
Not going to lie, I was initially drawn in by the fox on the cover (it’s a little-known fact that I love foxes because it’s often overshadowed by the amount of owl and peacock paraphernalia I own.) Number Thirteen, or Arthur, is a charming character and I enjoyed watching him overcome his timidity. He also makes an incredible number of stupid mistakes, but when you think about the fact that he’s around eleven or so and has been trapped in what is essentially a factory for his entire life with no experience in the outside world, it makes complete sense. This is a book where is actions have consequences that effect not only himself, but those around him and I enjoyed the reality of that. His mistakes sometimes cost others greatly.
I wanted to know more about the world the groundlings live in. Outside of The Home, we get a little view of the countryside and then the big city of Lumentown. For a nearly 500-page book, I was hoping to get more of a feel for the city, other than its physical layout. There are sections where only humans live, as well as ones with registered groundlings and then there’s a whole underground section where many groundlings toil away. I wanted a better sense of the history of the city and to know why it was structured this way.
There are also some mythical creatures in this book – two are specifically mentioned and that lead me to wonder what others exist in this world. We have humans, groundlings and “regular” animals – though they talk too – and a few mythical beasts. I’m not quite sure why the mythical beasts needed to be included in the story. I felt I didn’t get enough information to justify their presence in the story and would have liked them to be more developed.
Miss Carbunkle is a little shallow for my taste when it comes to villains. She didn’t have the best childhood, but her master plan throughout the story seems incredibly drastic compared to the resentment she harbors for her family. I’m also not sure what her plan would have accomplished or why those who helped her were willing to assist.
There is a central theme of music in this story, which was a nice addition. I haven’t read many music-based books and I know it must be hard to represent the sounds that characters are hearing via the written word. Arthur’s appreciation for music and the role it plays in his life felt like a natural addition to his character.
The ARC I received does have some chapter header illustrations and many spots where it says ‘artwork to come’ – I will definitely be picking up a finished copy because I want to see what the art looks like! It does appear that this is the first part of a series, and I plan to continue reading. If you’re looking for a mildly dark middle-grade with a musical theme and lots of animals then I recommend The Wonderling.
I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.