Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Horton Halfpott

Author: Tom Angleberger
Publisher: Amulet Books (May 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 9 to 12
Source: ARC from Midwinter ALA
Mystery * Humor

Description from GoodReads:
Tom Angleberger's latest, loopiest middle-grade novel begins when M'Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset (it's never been loosened before!), thereby setting off a chain of events in which all the strict rules of Smugwick Manor are abandoned. When, as a result of "the Loosening," the precious family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump (quite literally a lump), goes missing, the Luggertucks look for someone to blame. Is it Horton Halfpott, the good-natured but lowly kitchen boy who can't tell a lie? Or one of the many colorful cast members in this silly romp of a mystery.

I was excited to hear that Tom Angleberger, author of Origami Yoda, had a new middle grade book coming out, and then fortunate enough to snag an advanced reader's copy at ALA Midwinter.  After finishing it, within days of picking it up, the book was already making the rounds starting with my niece and then select students at school.  The verdict - one very funny book.  Horton Halfpott: Or, the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset or just Horton Halfpott, as I call it, is part Dickens, part Victorian mystery, and part Fractured Fairy Tales.  (For those of you too young to remember these cartoons, YouTube has a number of them.  Click here to watch one.) 

One morning, M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset is loosened unleashing a series of events around the Luggertuck's estate (Smugwick Manor).  Readers quickly learn that the Lord and Lady of Smugwick Manor are very unpleasant and their son Luther is quite spoiled.  There is no mistake about this.  When items go missing, the Luggertucks hire Portnoy St. Pomfrey to get to the bottom of it all.  As in most Victorian mysteries, things aren't always as they seem.  Is St. Pomfrey really such an amazing detective or just taking advantage of free food and housing?  Is the Luggertuck's lump really such a fabulous diamond?  Is Horton truly just a lowly kitchen boy who cannot lie?  Will Celia Sylvan-Smythe marry the conniving Luther, or his spineless cousin Montgomery, or will some other boy catch her eye?  And what does a gang of pirates have to do with this whole story?

Angleberger does a masterful job at getting the voice just right which is critical to the success of the story.  The short chapters, colorful characters, goofy antics, play on words, and twists and turns will engage readers.  The narrator reveals just enough information where the reader feels like s/he is in the know but not so much as to spoil the surprises.  Additionally, the book appears to appeal to both female and male readers.  It has been fun to see that both girl and boy readers sharing how much they have enjoyed the story too. 

Though vastly different from Origami Yoda, Horton Halfpott continues to show Angleberger's skill with writing humor and quirky characters.  Fortunately fans of Angleberger's won't have long to wait for another book, Darth Paper Strikes Back coming out in September 2011.   

For more information about Horton Halfpott, check out the official website.  I picked up a final copy recently (yes, it was spotted in the wild three weeks before the release date) and the windows on the front cover actually glows in the dark!

For more information about author Tom Angleberger, check out the following websites:  Berger & Burger or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

You can also follow Tom Angleberger on Twitter: @origamiyoda

* Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays were started by Shannon over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe. You can check out her Marvelous Middle Grade Monday choice and Giveaway Post here.