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Monday, August 16, 2010

MG-Review: Leaving the Bellweathers

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti

Published: 2009 by EgmontUSA
Genre: Middle grade contemporary fiction, I believe.
Binding: ARC
Page count: 241 in my copy.
Part of a series? Yes, there's a sequel coming out in October 2010.
Amazon link.

Summary (from the back of the book, because I didn't love the goodreads one): Every family has a black sheep. The Bellweathers are a family of black sheep. Spider loves dangerous animals, Ninda plays bagpipes, and the triplets Spike, Brick and Sassy wreak havoc on their quaint lighthouse home in the town of Eel-Smack-by-the-Back. The Bellweathers stoic butler, Tristan Benway - eager to escape this madness - is penning a tell-all memoir, but as he helps the children through their scrapes, he begins to wonder if he really does want to leave the Bellweathers.

Review: I absolutely love this one. The voice is charming, hilarious even, and the characters are very funny. I've told you guys how much I love middle grade books, right? And this is definitely one of my favourites. Even the switches from first person to third person are done very, very well.

Plot (in my words): Well, as the summary says, Leaving the Bellweathers details Tristan Benway's plans to leave the Bellweathers (gasp) as he writes a book about them and helps them through their various adventures. Um... is that enough about the plot? Oh! But there is one plotline that I think might just carry over into the next book and I'm very interesting in reading it.

Characters: As I said, the characters are very funny. The main characters are the Bellweathers and their butler, Tristan Benway, and the Bellweather characters include fourteen year old Spider, thirteen year old Ninda, and nine year old triplets Sassy, Brick, and Spike. Spider (who is about four years away from being drool-worthy) likes endangered animals - but only the deadly kind. Ninda, as the summary says, plays bagpipes.

And then there are the triplets, whose favourite foods include carrots and chocolate syrup, anchovies and peanut butter with whipped cream and green beans with marshmallows.

This is a very character-driven book, and they're awesome characters at that, even the smaller characters. So how about some character quotes! Oh, do keep in mind that these are from the ARC, not from the finished copy, so they're subject to change.

(About Mrs. Bellweather)
pg. 13

It never occurred to anyone to argue with Mrs. Bellweather. It would be like arguing with a rainbow - or a brillant sunset.
Arguing with a rainbow amuses the heck out of me.

(About Spider)
pg. 25

Spider's lair suits him well. The windows of his dank and musty chamber are few and high, letting in very little light. He was quite pleased when his mother painted the the room black, less pleased when she returned the following week and painted it burnt sienna.
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I do think that there are a couple loose ends that weren't tied up, but I understand that that's to carry over into the sequel.

PG-13 stuff: There's next to nothing. Not a kiss, not a curse, nothing. I would personally say that this one is appropriate subject matter-wise for younger readers, like nine or ten, who read at an advance, up to fourteen or fifteen since the writing is so good and up. Really, these would be good for anyone who likes Lemony Snicket or Eva Ibbotson, but especially good for MG-readers who aren't quite ready for YA books yet.

That make sense at all?

Cover comments: I think the cover is really cute and quirky and very suiting for the book. I'm glad to see that on the sequel's cover, they haven't changed anything.

Conclusion: This is an excellant book, well-written with a good, happy ending that made me really want to read the sequel and a definite recommend for just about anyone. Four roses.

Other notes:

- This was the first book that I read sitting outside with my feet in my pool. The water was very cold at first and I have a couple of notes that just say "my feet are cold."
- I love that their town is named "Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay" and that they live in a lighthouse.
- Benway needed an agent!

And that's all, folks.

Peace and cookies,

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