A hidden attic. A classic story. A very unexpected twist. Twin twelve-year-old bookworms Ophelia and Linus Easterday discover a hidden attic that once belonged to a mad scientist. While relaxing in the attic and enjoying her latest book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ophelia dozes off, and within moments finds herself facing a fully alive and completely bewildered Quasimodo. Ophelia and Linus team up with a clever neighbor, a hippy priest, and a college custodian, learning Quasimodo’s story while searching for some way to get him back home-if he can survive long enough in the modern world.
Since I work with elementary school kids, I read a lot of middle grade and children’s titles. When I saw the blurb for this on NetGalley, I was immediately intrigued; I mean, the book promised magic, and fictional characters in the modern world, and adventure! It pretty much screamed “your students would love this!” And now that I’ve finished it, I really think they will. This book was a lot of fun to read.
The book has a bit of a Lemony Snicket feel to it, in that it’s told from another narrator’s point of view (in this case, a custodian at the University’s English Department, who’s a bit of a curmudgeon), and also explains the definitions of larger, less-known vocabulary words (I was a really big fan of this, especially when his definitions got a little snarky). He tells the tale of how Linus and Ophelia, who are twins, and their friend, Walter, get caught up in an adventure due to a mishap in an enchanted attic that winds up bringing Quasimodo forward in time, right out of the pages of Victor Hugo’s book. He has all of these pretty funny asides, where he goes off on tangents about the professors of the English department, or when he thinks people are boneheaded, and it’s all done in a very humorous way that I think kids would love. I know I did, and while I’m not a kid, I am definitely a kid at heart, so there you go.
I loved the description of the twins, especially how they complemented each other but were quite different. I also loved the little back story of Walter, and how he’s using his trip to the US to turn over a new leaf and do things differently. And Father Lou, the neighborhood priest, was likewise entertaining, particularly the bit about how he used to be a bounty hunter. All of the characters were so unique, with these little idosyncracies that made them really stand out on the page (or e-reader, in my case). And then, of course, you have Quasimodo, who was really such a gentle soul that I couldn’t help but love him.
The adventure in this book comes courtesy of the deadline imposed on the magic, which says that Quasimodo must be returned 60 hours after he first appears in the world or he’ll die. Several things end up having to happen in order to make sure things turn out all right, and this is heightened by the fact that it’s raining cats and dogs throughout the book, and the dam is not in the best of shape. So you have this urgency (even though I was pretty sure everything would turn out just fine, this being a kid’s book and all) that makes you want to keep reading just so you know everything will be okay. As I said before, I just really had a lot of fun with this book.
If you’re looking for an easily accessible middle grade book, definitely check this one out. It will introduce students to the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and give them a really fun adventure filled with excitement and magic (not to mention talk about how people shouldn’t be judged by their outward appearance). I will definitely be purchasing this title for my library and book talking the stuffing out of it!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.