Tags: MG, YA, humor, pranks
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Tristan Benway is the unfortunate butler whose ancestor swore a 200-year-long fealty to the eccentric Bellweather family. Dr. Bellweather claims to be an inventor and erupts when interrupted; his wife paints walls of their lighthouse home incessantly; 14-year-old Spider has an unhealthy penchant for dangerous endangered animals; 13-year-old Ninda tries to make the world better by helping the downtrodden and exploited; and the 9-year-old triplets are incapable of being quiet except when they are plotting their next big plan of mischief. Benway counts down until the nearing day when his oath is over and he can leave his crazy employers forever.
But as the summer passes and the Bellweathers continue to do erratic things and get into heaps of trouble, Benway finds that leaving the Bellweathers is harder than he thought.
LEAVING THE BELLWEATHERS advertises itself as a middle-grade novel, but it’s great because of its ageless appeal. Young readers will not tire of the Bellweathers’ endless antics, while older readers will chuckle in appreciation of the more cultivated “potty humor” abundant throughout the pages.
Venuti creates caricatures of eccentric people, but we’re still able to care for them and not simply write them off as ridiculous. I love all of the Bellweather children, with their destructive habits, misplaced good intentions, and all. Each chapter ends with one of the long-suffering Benway’s snarky journal entries, which, besides for being a great place to find humor, is a way to track the development of the characters as they come to realize Benway as part of the family.
The humor will work with some readers, and not with others. It’s not the most intelligent of humor: think of every bad pun you wanted to make in middle and high school, and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like. Frankly, the humor made me cringe more than a few times, but I can see its appeal. The physical “gag” humor will keep young readers rolling on the ground, while older readers will laugh—or roll their eyes—at the subtler jabs and pop culture references.
Overall, however, LEAVING THE BELLWEATHERS is a charming read that I will recommend shamelessly to hyperactive kids and their worn-out, in-need-of-some-dumb-humor-to-unwind parents. In the ways of the movie Shrek, LEAVING THE BELLWEATHERS will be a hit with readers of all ages.
Stephanie Tolan (Surviving the Applewhites)
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - It's cute and different and certainly applies to the oddity of the book--but it's not a style I enjoy. Oh well. At least the story's great!
EgmontUSA / Sept. 22, 2009
Thank you, Beth, for offering me a copy for review!