Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (The Enchanted Attic)

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Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (The Enchanted Attic)
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Age Range
8+
Release Date
May 08, 2012
ISBN
978-0310727958
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A hidden attic. A classic story. A very unexpected twist. Twin twelve-year-old bookworms Ophelia and Linus Easterday discover a hidden attic that once belonged to a mad scientist. While relaxing in the attic and enjoying her latest book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ophelia dozes off, and within moments finds herself facing a fully alive and completely bewildered Quasimodo. Ophelia and Linus team up with a clever neighbor, a hippy priest, and a college custodian, learning Quasimodo's story while searching for some way to get him back home---if he can survive long enough in the modern world.

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Great read for Middle Grade!

First of all, let me just say, I'm not a huge fan of middle grade. However, I've been reading more of them because my oldest son is 7 years old and is an avid reader. So, I want to read books that he might be interested in as he gets older. And boy was I -pleased with this series!

Not only is the book witty, imaginative, and adventurous, it also incorporates friendship, treating everyone with respect and a background in older literature. I actually enjoyed reading it, a 30 year old woman! I really enjoyed how Ophelia, Walter & Linus treated Quasimodo with respect and human decency, something he did not get in his time. I also enjoyed reading about how they worked as a team to get Quasi back to his own time without harming him. I also loved how the book raises poignant questions such as; Can Quasi change his fate back in his time, by what he's learned in our time? Not only is this a great lesson in teaching young children that we can make our own decisions, but whether or not we make the right ones, and how to go about doing that.

The other point I really enjoyed was the narrator. A grown up janitor who is both witty, informative & makes for a very fun read! I highly recommend this book for any middle school classroom and/or library and for middle grade readers. Also, this is a series! I can't wait to read the next one and I absolutely cannot wait to share these books with my children (they are a bit too young now, but soon won't be!)

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(Updated: May 11, 2012)
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Making the Hunchback PB&J sandwiches

As an adult reader of books for children, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about voice and audience. I don’t want to read a middle-grade book written for me, the adult who has learned to be cynical, grumpy and analytical. I don’t want to read a middle-grade book that winks at me about how poorly educated modern children are. I want to read a book that doesn’t give a darn about the grown-up who might be reading it. I want to read a book aimed at the heart, soul and mind of a child, a book splashing in puddles without worrying about wet socks, a book sneaking up the attic stairs to find the ghosts, a book utterly certain that the world will end if the boy falls in love with the wrong girl.

FACING THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is narrated by a very grown-up grown-up: a peevish, intelligent, germaphobic janitor at Kingscross University. His frequent asides include vocabulary-building definitions of the more complex words used in the text, critical comments upon the characters and story, advice and insight about how to write a book, and expressions of disgust about dirt and germs. He is a character-narrator, rather than an authorial voice from outside the fictional world created in the book, but even still, his intrusions were so terribly adult and finicky-maiden-auntish that they served only to distance me from the story. They were an insulating layer between the reader and the story, and kept me from growing attached to the twins, or any other character.

The narrative itself however (as distinct from the narrator) is quite good fun. When Quasimodo suddenly appears in their uncle’s abandoned attic lab, twins Olivia and Linus realize they have discovered a magical portal that allows fictional characters to enter the real world. The remainder of the book is about what happens in the few days Quasi (as they decide to call him) is in Kingscross, and the obstacles they face when they try to send him back.

The central idea - bringing characters to life - is a truly intriguing one, especially for those of us who live half our lives in fictional worlds. Who wouldn’t want to meet Lucy Pevensie, Ozma of Oz, Bilbo Baggins or Katness? I certainly would. I’m not sure I would be quite so interested in Quasimodo or Ishmael (from Moby Dick, which is apparently what the next book will focus on). On the other hand, that could be an admission of my limited tastes.

Also, the book raises questions about narrative fate: must Quasimodo, for example, love the unworthy Esmerelda, or can he learn enough in our world to change his future? These are serious questions, about self-determination, fate and character, but they are not probed. Olivia wants Quasi to make a better future for himself, but doesn’t stop to reflect on what that might mean to the story as Hugo wrote it, or all the books ever written which reference that text, or all the thousands of readers who learned to love the innocent, desperate, loving hunchback just as he was written, tragedy and all.

FACING THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME has a lot to recommend it, but I am not sure a younger reader would go to the trouble of working past the narration to find the story.

Good Points
Intriguing central trope
Quasi is a charming character
Readers do love books about readers, reading and stories
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This book should be in every classroom/school!

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.

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