From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7–Ratbridge is populated by a variety of odd creatures and equally unusual humans. Underlings, including boxtrolls (shy trolls that wear boxes) and cabbageheads (they worship cabbage and wear them tied to their heads), live in tunnels and caves beneath the city. A boy named Arthur emerges from his subterraneous home and discovers an evil plot. The shady members of the Cheese Guild, led by an unpleasant fellow called Snatcher, are kidnapping underlings and plotting to take over the town. Arthur's allies against the Guild include underlings, a man in iron socks, and the pirates and rats who run the Nautical Laundry. There's a great deal of inspired silliness throughout, which may appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. Although the characters are not particularly well developed through words, numerous high-quality, black-and-white illustrations bring Ratbridge and its citizens to life, accentuating the comical tone and helping to pace the tale. The action is clearly played for laughs rather than suspense, as when the heroes repulse an attack on their ship by firing balls of bilge-pump gunk using catapults made of knickers. Some readers might lose interest in the sometimes-rambling series of events, but the short chapters, intriguing creatures, quirky humor, and engaging art make this book a good choice for youngsters who enjoy lengthy and lighthearted fantasy.–Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR
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Gr. 4-6. Wearing a flying contraption that consists of leathery wings and a box with a crank, Arthur quietly flutters across the night sky above the town of Ratbridge. He liberates a bunch of bananas from the greenhouse of "a very large lady with a very long stick" and escapes, only to spot an illegal cheese hunt, give chase, and land in a peck of trouble. Soon the plucky lad allies himself with boxtrolls, cabbageheads, pirates, rats, a retired lawyer, and the sadly imprisoned Man in the Iron Socks in a mighty struggle against a pack of scurrilous villains. Snow, who has written and illustrated droll picture books such as How Santa Really Works
(2004), provides small, detailed, crosshatched drawings on nearly every page of the novel. Helpful in creating the settings and bringing the more fantastic characters to life, the illustrations, which are often amusing, also make the book accessible to younger children who like lengthy books. Snow's inventive fantasy, somewhat reminiscent of Roald Dahl's work, combines stout hearts, terrible troubles, and inspired lunacy. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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