Pippa, who can read people's pockets; Max, who can throw a knife so accurately it's scary; Sam, the strongest boy in the world; and Thomas, who can bend and fold his body in remarkable ways, all live in Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. There, among a group of people labeled freaks by society, the four children have found a sort of family in each other. But after Mr. Dumfrey unveils the newest marvel, a shrunken head, a series of horrible tragedies including murder and the theft of the head itself, sets them on the trail of a dangerous criminal as they try to unravel the mystery and save the museum. Can they figure out how to work together to retrieve the skull or will they lose everything they care about?
This book just came out this week, so go to your local book store and get yourself a copy!
Here we go! 10 things I loved about Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H. C. Chester.
- The Tone: At the risk of using an over-used comparison, this book had a very Snicket-esque feel to it. Not in the writing style itself. Instead it was more in the sensibility of the story and the plot. It had the quirkiness and the definition of the characters and the utter lack of condescension to the audience.
- Pippa, Max, Sam, and Thomas: One thing I particularly enjoyed, was the way the four main characters had such agency. They see something that needs to be done and they do it. I also loved their "freak" traits, especially the way Pippa reads what's in people's pockets rather than their minds in a traditional sense.
- The Secondary Characters: There are a lot of secondary characters and some of them are only roughly sketched in, but those sketches are enough to give you a feeling for who they are - they don't feel flat.
- The Curiosity House: There's just enough described to give you a good feeling of the setting, which is important for the overall tone and feel of the book, but not too much so it becomes tedious. There's a very real sense of place.
- The Sense of Time: I liked that it was set in a historical period, so not only the physical place of the house, but also the sense of time provided a great backdrop for the happenings. It's all woven into the story in a very organic way with all the little historical details adding to the story.
- The Mystery: I sort of had a feeling I knew where things were going, but it didn't make the journey any less enjoyable. It was interesting seeing them find their way through all of the twists and turns to figure out what was actually going on.
- The Stakes: I'm not trying to diminish stories where the stakes are less physical, but I enjoy when there are significant physical stakes - people's lives in danger, their home literally at risk. It adds something, especially when there are also emotional and mental issues at stake as well. The combination of the two sides make the story more intense for me.
- The Villain: I liked that there was an actual, physical villain - someone actually against the children. Though the villain isn't revealed until basically the end, I like that there is so much potential for future books.
- The Artwork: I didn't even get to see all of it, because this is the Advanced Reader Copy, but what was there was so interesting and so beautiful. I liked the chapter headings, but I did wish that they corresponded better with the POV of the chapter. It sort of switches between silhouettes of Max and Pippa, but not straight back and forth so I was a little confused, and the chapters include Sam and Thomas' perspectives as well, but there weren't silhouettes of the boys. Maybe that's something that will be different in the final copy, but I found it a little distracting (though pretty).
- There's More! At least I'm assuming so, since it leaves us hanging at the end! (that and it's listed as #1 on GoodReads) I want to know what happens next!