From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–This inventive novel has elements of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart
(Scholastic, 2003) and Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (HarperCollins). Fern Drudger, an imaginative misfit in her extraordinarily boring family, discovers that she and Howard Bone were switched at birth. The adults decide that the children will spend the summer with their birth parents and Fern meets her father, the Bone. He is an "Anybody"–he can change into someone or something else. However, he's not very good at it. He's convinced that Fern can help him find The Art of Being Anybody
, a book once owned by his dead wife, which will allow him to improve his skills–but he must locate it before his enemy, the Miser, does and stop him from using it for evil purposes. Fern and the Bone end up in disguise at Fern's grandmother's boarding house, a magical, if dilapidated, palace of books, where anything can happen, especially if you happen to be an Anybody. Like Snicket, Bode is an amusing presence within this story about family, imagination, love of the written word, the dangers of hypnosis, and how to put an army of fairies to good use. The writing is fluid, the characters are multifaceted, and the situations range from poignant to gloriously silly. Eye-catching, black-and-white sketches echo the story's nuances and add to the atmosphere. There's laugh-out-loud humor, fantasy, mystery, real-life family drama, and the potential for a sequel. What more could a reader want?–Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library
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Gr. 5-8. Though a hospital error left Fern to be raised by the "tragically dull" Drudgers, her biological parents were Anybodies--professional shapeshifters. When 12-year-old Fern reunites with her widowed father, she learns that his transforming abilities have mysteriously disappeared. Their quest to restore his powers occasions a visit to Fern's grandmother, whose vast library gives Fern a chance to discover a talent of her own: by shaking books, she can make elements of the stories tumble into the real world. Writing under a tongue-in-cheek pseudonym, Julianna Baggot, the author of three novels for adults, folds in numerous inside jokes for kid-lit fans (a tree bearing a giant peach makes an appearance, as do hobbits and Borrowers). The many-pronged plot doesn't always hang together (what Fern's book-related gifts have to do with her Anybody heritage is left frustratingly vague), but the plummy, discursive narrative style will appeal to fans of Dahl and Snicket, and the loony goings-on will entice young bibliophiles back for future installments. Rough but charming sketches by Peter Ferguson were included in the galley. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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