Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mississippi magic

I admit it: I picked up this one entirely because of the cover. Look at it! Who could resist that? I think it may have been a mistake to get the audio version; in the reviews listed below there were many comments about the lovely interior illustrations, so I may have to find the book so I can take a look at them. I love Nicoletta Ceccoli's art, and since I discovered her, my children and I have read every one of her picture books we've been able to get our greedy little hands on. I think my favorite one is The Girl in the Castle inside the Museum.

I did enjoy Jessica Almasy's narration of the book, however - she has a nice clear voice and gave the characters lots of expression when they spoke. The protagonist is twelve-year-old Claire, a girl who loves the outdoors and all its creatures, from frogs to lizards to turtles. Her cousin Duke is a thoroughly disagreeable boy who bullies anyone younger or smaller or weaker than he is, including Claire. In the opening scene he is dangling her over the side of a bridge, but instead of plummeting into the river when he lets go, Claire floats gently down into a nearby rowboat, whose only other passenger is a little old woman who seems to know much more than she's letting on. Duke's nose suddenly sprouts a horn like a rhinoceros, and the old woman tells Claire that the only way he can get rid of it is by performing a genuine act of kindness.

The sudden appearance of Duke's horn might seem a bit odd, but Claire (and everyone in town) knows that there's something truly odd about the river, and Claire's grandfather regales her with tales from bygone years of other boys who had horns just like Duke's. But Claire has no idea how bizarre an adventure she's in for, when Duke hooks up with some river trolls and suddenly her relatives have been turned to stone. Claire is determined to change them back, and she accompanies Duke and his troll companions on what appears to be an impossible quest.

This was an enjoyable adventure story, but somehow I never felt that intense need to get back to it to see what was going to happen. The characters were a bit lacking in depth for me - and Duke was so disagreeable I could never care one way or another what happened to him (and I couldn't help but wonder why on earth Claire did). His parents' about-face at the end of the book regarding their son was patently unbelievable, too. What I did like was the sense of magical things happening along a certain section of the Mississippi river, a special sort of homegrown, tall-tale-spawning magic that just might exist out in the reader's own backyard.

Horns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson; narrated by Jessica Almasy (Recorded Books, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Bookshelves of Doom
Dolce Bellezza
Here, There, and Everywhere
Let the Wild Rumpus Start!
Maw Books Blog
Nothing of Importance


  1. nicoletta ceccoli's art is beautiful. i managed to get hold of some of her stationary recently. i wouldn't have been able to resist that cover either!

  2. oh and can you guess who drew my avatar?!

  3. I wouldn't have been able to resist that cover either!

    Most of the reviews I've seen of this book seem to agree that the characters are a bit one-dimensional. That's too bad, but it still sounds like a fun read.

  4. Mariel - oooh! Stationery! (she slobbers) 'Scuse me while I go do a little shopping... :-)

    Love the avatar!

    Nymeth - I think I'm probably pickier than the kids that are the book's intended audience. And you're right - it is a fun read!

  5. Why all these fantasy book reviews?! Grumble, grumble says the historical fiction fan : )

  6. Why not get both the book and the audio next time and let it "read" to you?

  7. it was a cute read, and great artwork.. and one that i shipped off to my grandson as I doubt I'd read it again lol

  8. Ladytink - I'm so bad at reading along because I read too fast and end up completely ignoring the narrator! I used to do that at school all the time and be pages ahead of everyone else, and then have no clue what was going on when the teacher called on me. Bombs could go off when I'm reading a book and I'd be oblivious! :-)

    Deslily - your grandson is lucky to have such a cool grandma who not only sends him wonderful books but enjoys reading them, too!

  9. VA Gal - oops, sorry - didn't see your comment up there. You know fantasy is my first true love! I'm working on a review of a paranormal fantasy with romantic elements, but I doubt it's up your alley. I do have a YA historical on my pile, though - I'll bump it up (but don't expect to see a review soon - I'm soooo far behind, sigh). What have you been reading? You haven't talked about books on your blog in a while. Oh, and I have Violet on the Runway here waiting for you - when are you coming over??

  10. I used to do the same thing but I've found that most of the newer audio books can keep up with me.

  11. Ladytink - Huh! Maybe I should give it a try!

  12. I picked this one up as well based upon the cover art. Actually my husband picked it up and I stole it. I liked it well enough, I thought it was fun!

  13. Natasha - I'm glad I'm not the only one who was seduced by that beautiful cover. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I've been having that book stealing problem with my kids lately - I brought the new Moxy Maxwell home, as well as Rapunzel's Revenge, and they've both been whisked away. I can't pretend that I'm not pleased about it, though, really! :-)

  14. Yep I would have picked it up judging by the cover as well! Sorry the book didn't quite live up to the cover though.

  15. Rhinoa - maybe if the cover hadn't been so great the book would have stood up better. :-)


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