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The Wooden Mile: Something Wickedly Weird, vol. 1 Hardcover – September 30, 2008
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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First published in England, the Something Wickedly Weird series opens with 11-year-old Stanley Buggles traveling to Crampton Rock and taking up residence at Candlestick Hall. He recently inherited the mansion and its strange contents from his great-uncle Admiral Bartholomew Swift, who perished in “a dark encounter with a fearsome werewolf.” Though both the housekeeper and the magical pike mounted in the hallway warn Stanley off the local mystery, the plucky lad can’t hold back. Soon the pirates lurking nearby seem just as menacing as the werewolf, which is on the prowl again. With its fairly easy text, many black-and-white illustrations, and a dramatic scene silhouetted on the cover, this chapter book will appeal to young readers who like their fiction fast-paced and a bit scary. Mould’s richly atmospheric ink drawings capture the rather macabre tone of the story. The second volume in the series, The Icy Hand (9781596433854), is now available in the U.S. Grades 3-6. --Carolyn Phelan
“Young readers will find print size and short chapters approachable, and will enjoy following the action on the map of the island.” ―Library Media Connection
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Now, again in the Gorey/Dahl style, all of this is presented in a deadpan matter-of-fact sort of way. None of it is actually scary, because it's all just a little too silly and tongue in cheek to be truly threatening. And, our hero, Stanley, is stalwart and steady in the face of danger, so he's bravely there with the reader. Perhaps most importantly, there are dependable and strong adult characters who clearly are watching out for Stanley's well being. The overall feeling you get is the new reader version of learning how to swim while Mom or Dad has a firm grip on you and you're in pretty shallow water. (The upshot is - "Hey, this is fun.)
Maybe I'm over thinking this, but it did pop into my head a few times as I read, so I figured it was worth mentioning. In a larger sense, this is a very fun read. Stanley is a good kid, (thoughtful, observant, eager to experience things, enthusiastic), and I like kid heroes who have a level head but then throw themselves into the adventure with gusto. The island setting is properly weird and unsettling. The characters are not deeply developed, but they display a fair amount of personality and distinctiveness. The clarity and directness that you need in the writing for an early chapter book is supplemented by wonderful drawings that add atmosphere and humorous detail, so your youngster gets a richer and yet manageable reading experience.
So, the book struck me as a hoot; it avoids all of that fart and booger stuff; it sets out a nice doable reading challenge and it's suspenseful and rewarding. That's O.K. by me.
Please note that I found this book while browsing Amazon Kindle goodies. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
I don't mean by that that they're all bad, but I would give this particular series a pass. As of my writing, there are six volumes in the series, all very handsomely published. In order:
1. The Wooden Mile
2. The Icy Hand
3. The Silver Casket
4. The Darkling Curse
5. The Smugglers' Mine
6. The Treasure Keepers
The tale of "The Wooden Mile," the first installment, concerns the adventures of the young Stanley Buggles as he sets out to discover why a mysterious island is plagued with werewoves and pirates.
Mould's stories have a fun look and feel, and Mould is quite able with dialogue. There are in addition many endearing sketches of the people and places around Crampton Rock (whereupon the action of the tale is set).
Regrettably, the main character comes off as devoid of any real personality, and events in the book happen so quickly and follow each other so relentlessly that it's difficult for the reader to be emotionally present.
I am a huge fan of Chris Mould's artwork, and I have collected every installment in the series so far, merely because of his drawings, which have a compelling and unique style.
His abilities as a storywriter, however, are lacking. I find the stories uninteresting and often silly. I wish he would get somebody else to write the stories for him. However, I am not a kid, so maybe kids wouldn't mind. For my part, though, what actually happens to Stanley Buggles is nowhere near as imaginative as Mould's artwork is.
Whenever I find out that a new "Something Wickedly Weird" book has come out, however, I order it from Amazon's UK site, since I think those editions are much more handsome than the ones printed in the U.S. You can also buy the British version as an import through Amazon's U.S. website here: Something Wickedly Weird 01. The Wooden Mile. But the stories themselves are so lame I don't even read them anymore: I just buy them for the pictures.
I would say this series is most appropriate for boys, ages 8-10.