Reader, do not panic. Do not throw the book down in anger. Do not wonder how Horton could have failed, because, of course, he did not. What Luther saw was not all there was to see. If we are to see it, we must turn back the clock a little. We must revisit the recent past, just a half hour before the kidnapping."
What fun this was to read! Now, I am going to recommend it to a friend to read to her grade three class as she finishes her student teaching before beginning the job hunt. This one is for you, Diane!
Smugwick Manor is a great place to meet people....oh, they are quite the crew! M'Lady Luggertuck sets the action in motion when she decides that she will not have her corset laced as tightly as usual. Everything changes with that one split second decision. The Loosening is upon everyone in the manor and it affects how each of them attends to their duties, except for Horton (until much later in the story when his help is needed by a friend).
Horton Halfpott is one of the kitchen boys and his job all day, every day, is to wash dishes. Horton never complains, never breaks any rules and always runs home to his family with the one penny he earns each week, hoping that it will soon be enough to get his father the medical attention that he needs. If it ever appears that his work is done, he polishes the forks, or other silver...his work is never done!
Horton is a great friend and so, he has many. Bump is his best one, and they look out for each other. Bump is a stable boy who works with Blemish and Blight. When the Loosening is set in motion, it's hard to stop the train. M'Lady decides to host a ball and the delivery of the furthest invitation becomes Horton's newest task. In doing so, he meets the lovely Lady Celia whose attention and betrothal is the secret dream of M'Lady's useless and evil son, Luther Luggertuck. Celia has an instant connection to Horton and you know that is going to cause some issues.
Mysterious robberies lead the lady of the house to hire an inept and expensive detective, accusations are thrown about willy-nilly, strange meetings are afoot, and Horton and his friends take it into their own hands to expose the thief and thwart a kidnapping.
Both hilarious and quirky, this is a great read for a classroom, or for an intermediate to middle grade reader. Do you recognize a bit of a connection to Roald Dahl? Of course, you do. Boggis, Bunce and Bean? The young outwitting the older members of the household? Good people making the world a better place? In this year when we celebrate Charles Dickens' two hundredth birthday you will also note a shout-out to him and his writing in the characters and setting created. Those characters are worthy, the chapters short, the plot fast-paced, the story engaging. The mix of good and evil gives us people to love and to hate.
I love that the author keeps us always in the loop with comments like the one that begins this post. Tom Angleberger tells his second tale (the first is The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) with wit, lively language and an almost-promise that this is not the last we will hear of Horton Halfpott. At the least, we can live in hopes of that.