The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin

 
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The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
April 12, 2016
ISBN
9780062345103
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Roald Dahl meets The Penderwicks in this quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about two siblings who run away from home to escape working in the family coffin business. John Coggin is no ordinary boy. He is devising an invention that nobody has ever seen before, something that just might change the world, or at least make life a little bit better for him and his little sister, Page. But that’s only when he can sneak a break from his loathsome job—building coffins for the family business under the beady gaze of his cruel Great-Aunt Beauregard. When Great-Aunt Beauregard informs John that she’s going to make him a permanent partner in Coggin Family Coffins—and train Page to be an undertaker—John and Page hit the road. Before long, they’ve fallen in with a host of colorful characters, all of whom, like John and Page, are in search of a place they can call home. But home isn’t something you find so much as something you fight for, and John soon realizes that he and Page are in for the fight of their lives.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

A Series of Unfortunate Employments
(Updated: January 23, 2016)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
John and his sister Page are living with their great aunt Beauregarde after the death of their parents in the grimy and depressing town of Pludgett. John works for the family business, building coffins, but he has managed to keep Page in school. When Beauregarde tells the two that Page will start working for Coggin Family Coffins, the two decide to run away. Luckily, they have just met Boz, and odd man who is associated with the Wandering Wayfarers circus, and he arrives just in time to drive them away from their aunt in a horse drawn fire engine. The two find the circus amusing, and John works hard to earn acceptance by the group by working on a steam driven vehicle called the Autopsy, but he is never able to make it work, and soon he and Page are on their own again. Luckily, they manage to find Maria, who runs a bakery and takes a liking to both of them. She puts John to work, but her nephew soon arrives and realizes that money is very tight. In order to help, John tries to create a new oven, but his efforts wind up blowing up the bakery! On the run again, they join up with an archaeologist, Miss Doyle, but are soon located by their great aunt and kidnapped. With the help of Boz, as well as others he has met on his journeys, John tries to create a vehicle that will steal the show at the Pludgett Day celebration and win his freedom and that of his sister.
Good Points
There are plenty of goofy moments in this book-- John is referred to as Dung Boy in the circus, since he first meets most of the performers after stepping in a horse patty, chicken poo is used for fuel for John's engines, and there are a lot of small, gross moments where boogers drop from people's noses into their soup.

While Beauregard is nothing but evil, John and Page are fortunate enough to find a variety of caring people to help them. I loved Maria and the scenes in the bakery; it was somewhat reminiscent of the scene in The Box Car Children. If I were running away from home and hungry, I would certainly look for an alley to sleep in very close to a bakery. It was especially nice that Maria came looking for the children even after they burned her business to the ground.

Like Ardagh's Eddie Dickens Trilogy, Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, or Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggins pits orphaned children against a variety of evil adults who think nothing of sacrificing them for an evil agenda. Using language much like Snicket's, in that the vocabulary is rather rarified and obscure, Teele draws a quirky, dangerous world full of intrigue and adventure for her hapless but resourceful characters.
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