I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I will almost always pick up a book if it has a funny title. The whole title for this one is Horton Halfpott, or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor, or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset. And this is how I came to acquire this particular book, need I say more? (As an added bonus, it opens with a map and sketches of all of the main characters. I’m always a sucker for that, too.)
Of course I will say more! Tom Angleberger wrote the Origami Yoda series, which I have written about on my blog, here. (The next book, Jabba the Puppet, comes out in August! On my birthday!) I got to meet Mr. Angleberger in April, and he was really nice. There was a boy in line in front of me, and he took the time to examine all of the origami Star Wars characters the boy had brought to show him. My nephew is a HUGE origami superfolder now after reading all of these books, so I switched it up and had a copy of Fake Mustache signed for him instead. (I’ll have to blog that one later on.) Needless to say, I’m a big fan. I Tweeted out that I had just finished the book, tagged the author in my post, and he tweeted back to thank me! How cool is that?
This story, Horton Halfpott, is a mystery of the old-fashioned variety. Horton is a poor put-upon kitchen boy, who spends his days and nights washing dishes and polishing the silver at an estate called Smugwick Manor. On Sundays he walks home to check on his family and deliver his wages of one penny per week. His father has been ill and they cannot afford to hire a doctor to take care of him, so Horton toils away, overworked and underpaid, trying to contribute to his family’s savings. Smugwick Manor belongs to the Luggertuck family, where they value tradition and rules and respectability, until one day, when M’Lady Luggertuck asks for her corset (an oldy-timey girdle used to tie up one’s midsection to appear skinnier) to not be hitched up as tightly as usual. This creates a relaxed environment that everyone in the house picks up on, and the rules start to fall apart. The Luggertucks own a diamond called The Lump, which is famous for being the world’s largest uncut diamond…and then it is stolen! M’Lady Luggertuck calls in a very famous and important detective, Portnoy St. Pomfrey, to solve the case. He is not a very good detective, in the way that Gilderoy Lockheart is not a very good wizard. Horton and his friends become involved in the mystery, a love interest is introduced, and a band of shipless pirates appear in town. Shipless. It’s just what it sounds like.
This book stands nicely by itself, but there are a few hints that maybe there could possibly be another story in the future. It also names some make-believe prequels, any of which I would also read! I recommend this book to anyone who likes clever writing and funny characters with great names. For example, the baker’s name is Loafburton and the cranky cook is called Miss Neversly. One of the servants is called Wickleweaver. Say it out loud. It sounds most excellent!
Horton Halfpott has an AR level of 5.8 and is worth 5 points.