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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Castle Hangnail" by Ursula Vernon (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)




Visit Ursula Vernon's Website Here



OVERVIEW: When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.

FORMAT: Castle Hangnail is a standalone children's fantasy novel. It stands at 384 pages and was published April 21, 2015 by Dial Books.

ANALYSIS: Ursula Vernon is one of my favorite modern children's authors. Her series, Dragonbreath, is absolutely brilliant from the well-thought out characters to the fun drawings, and not to mention the funny dialogue between the characters. When I saw Castle Hangnail was coming out, I knew I had to give it a try.

Castle Hangnail is a bit different from Vernon's Dragonbreath series. It has interesting characters and beautiful drawings, but it strays from the all-to-familiar format of the loveable Dragonbreath series.

One of the first noticeable differences is the format of the book. Dragonbreath isn't really an early reader/chapter book, but it is definitely designed for the younger audience. Dragonbreath comes in a half graphic novel, half novel format. The font is large and bold, and the entire book wraps up in 200 pages give or take. Castle Hangnail is a bit different.

Castle Hangnail has illustrations, but they supplement the story instead of help tell the story. There are numerous chapters that have no illustrations at all. The font is still easy to read and the story flows nicely, making it ideal for younger readers, but not to the point where it feels as if it is a childish book.

Unfortunately, this difference is where one of my "issues" – if you could call it that – comes in. I'm not 100% certain who the ultimate audience is for this novel. It is written for a younger audience, but the nearly 400 page novel might seem a bit overwhelming to those that would be its target audience.

Is the storyline okay for older readers? Yes, but I could easily see a few of the older readers finding the story childish or silly. When I refer to 'older' readers, I'm talking about older middle grade readers. The difficulty in identifying a target audience may result in this loveable novel being overlooked or passed up by readers who would otherwise love it.

What I do love about Castle Hangnail is that it does provide a bit of fresh air to the children's fantasy genre. There seems to be an all-to-common need to make children's books darker, scarier, or more violent. Castle Hangnail has its conflicts as it isn't all rainbows and butterflies, but it does so in a way that isn't violent or ultra-extreme.

This stray from violence or darkness makes it a great book for those readers both young and old who are just looking for a fun read. After all, it has a solid plot that works for even those that are young at heart, the characters are detailed and loveable, and the pace is just right.

I will say I loved the characters in this book. They weren't funny, but they pulled at my heart strings and I just formed instant connections with them. I truly wanted to be Molly's friend by the end of the book. I even wanted to have my own set of minions – even a goldfish! Vernon really fleshed out all the characters without overcomplicating them, which made them even more loveable (or unlovable in the case of the bad guys).

If I had to pick a favorite part of the book, it would definitely be the mish-mash collection of characters. They just worked for me and really made this book a fun, fun read.

Overall, I loved Castle Hangnail. I felt it was a solid novel with a solid ending. Of course, there could be other novels, which I would love to see, but for the most part it is a solid standalone novel. It isn't the same as Dragonbreath, but it certainly will leave you with a feel good feeling at the end of reading it.

2 comments:

=Tamar said...

I don't know about the rest of the audience, but I'm 67 and I like the book.

Cindy said...

I loved this book! And I am not in the target audience either. I actually love almost all of Ursula Vernon's books. I think they have an appeal to both adults and kids.

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