The Kneebone Boy

The Kneebone Boy
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
September 14, 2010
ISBN
031237772X
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Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who’s away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal. . . . In this wickedly dark, unusual, and compelling novel, Ellen Potter masterfully tells the tale of one deliciously strange family and a secret that changes everything.

Editor review

1 review
All is not as it seems.
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
0.0
Ill let you in on a secret. I had to race to finish reading The Kneebone Boy in time to write this review. Not because I had a hard time reading it: in fact, I found it a pleasantly gripping read. No, the problem was that my son had picked it up off my desk and then disappeared with it. For weeks. That alone is rave-review enough. He views anything Im reading with great suspicion, as if it were broccoli in book-form, (wholesome, good for you and not all that much fun to consume). This book however, was a hit.

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter, lets you in on a secret tooon many secrets, really. Along the way, there are mechanical rats, hidden passages, a mighty dragon-slayer, Fluffernutter sandwiches, a deposed Sultan, missing relatives, a local legend and three resourceful, intelligent childrenand all around and through the story, like a wisp of fog, slinks the sense that the world is a stranger, more mysterious place than the grown-ups would have us believe.

However, The Kneebone Boy also suggests that the world is far more normal than we might hope. No matter how strange or unbelievable an event, story or person seems to be (a five-legged cat, an imprisoned child-monster, a stuffed miniature zebra), sooner or later there is a logical(ish) explanation.

The book tells the story of the three Hardscrabble children who, having been sent to stay with an aunt by their distracted, artist father, instead find themselves lost and alone in London. They flee the city, landing at the miniature castle their American great-aunt is currently renting. Adventures ensue, much to their delight, because it is important, as Lucia points out, to have at least one big adventure before you turn fourteen and start to become dull and grown-up. Fourteen, as JM Barrie didnt quite say, is the beginning of the end.

The whole story is narrated by Lucia, although like Oswald Bastable of The Treasure Seekers (another very self-conscious narrator), she refuses to directly reveal her identity. However, shes quite happy to tease the reader with asides about what is coming up next, as well as how hard it is to write a book. That the book knows full well that it is a book is part of this circularity of fiction and reality.

In the end, if there is anything I would quibble about, it is that The Kneebone Boy is almost too conscious of itself as a work of fiction to be utterly satisfying. How many layers between ourselves and what is Real can we tolerate before we stop believing in anything, like some less-than-utterly-royal princess who just doesnt notice that darn pea?

The Kneebone Boy remains, however, a fun, engaging and original (a word I dont use lightly) work of fiction and one you should keep fast hold of, lest your child (or parent) attempt to abscond with it before you finish.
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User reviews

2 reviews
Overall rating
 
2.8
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
3.5(2)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
2.0(1)
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The Kneebone Boy (A Room with Books review)
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Disclaimer: I wrote this review past midnight so I’m sorry if it seems a bit jumbly or rambly :P


I ended up adoring this book. I say it that way because for the first ¼ to 1/3 it wasn’t really making me want to jump up and down or anything, but then THINGS happened and I was turning pages rather quickly being all sucked into the story and whatnot.

First, I just want to touch on the thing that I loved most about The Kneebone Boy: the narration. Despite how many books I read I’m kind of terrible when it comes to literature terms. I can never remember what’s 1st person, what’s 3rd, and so on and so forth. That being said, I’m not sure if the narration of this book is entirely unique, but it’s the only book I’ve come across like it and I loved it. Of course, now you’re saying to yourself “well how in the world IS it narrated then?!” Well, first of all it doesn’t right out tell you who is narrating. Second of all, the narrator knows they are telling you the story and occasionally even points it out. I loved the reading experience it provided.

I loved that the Hardscrabble children were all so unique. They all had distinct personalities along with flaws which made them feel more realistic. Of course, there are also fantastic side characters, but some of my favorites don’t pop up until a time when it would spoil the story if I mentioned them, so I shan’t. Also, the cat(the one from the cover) is rather neat. He doesn’t talk or anything (sorry to disappoint) but I love when animals make an appearance in books all the same :]

The story itself is fantastic as well. It’s not all action and adventure which is what I usually go for when I read MG, but it does have a sort-of adventure mystery thing going for it and I adored it. It’s not quite as creepy as the cover may lead you to believe, but it still has some spooky moments.

The Nutshell: If you actually read all my ramblings up top you’ll know that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if you didn’t, then I think I just made my feelings clear. Though it started out a bit slow for me I stuck with it and I’m incredibly glad I did. I found the narration to be unique and the story to be engaging and fascinating. The Kneebone Boy is definitely a story worth your time, especially if you’re looking for an MG with a fresh feel.
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Weird but Confusing Novel
(Updated: October 29, 2011)
Overall rating
 
2.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
2.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
2.0
In The Kneebone Boy, the Hardscrabble children live in a small England town where everyone has avoided them like the plague since their mother disappeared. One reason the villagers avoid them is because rumor has it that one day Otto strangled his mom in a fit of rage. I suspect another reason is because the children aren't all that friendly. One day the youngest Max invites a girl home. Lucia demands to know who she is. Lucia keeps pressing Brenda with questions until finally Lucia denounces everything Max has said as lies and snorts: "I'm surprised a girl your age would believe such rubbish. I honestly think kids are getting stupider each year." Yes, Ellen Potter has given readers another snob. The difference here is that while eventually Clara of Pish Posh reveals herself as vulnerable as the rest of us, I never really feel this about the Hardscrabble children. In Potter tradition, mysteries are afoot within the first chapter. Did the children's mom die at the hands of Otto? Did she even die? What exactly happened to their mother? There are other storylines, but none of them possesses the same heart of Potter's other books. Instead they seem weird for the sake of being odd, such as the unidentified narrator of The Kneebone Boy. The Kneebone Boy does have twists, but I find them harder to follow and so in the end stopped caring whether they all made sense.
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