Monday, September 14, 2015

Diary of a Mad Brownie

Diary of a Mad Brownie
Bruce Coville
Random House, 2015
Grades 3-6

Angus is a small mischief making, house cleaning Brownie, serving an elderly lady in the Scottish countryside. Upon the lady's death Angus must journey across the great sea to the United States to serve the youngest female descendant over ten years old. He is sent to live with the Carhart family in Connecticut and young Alex in particular. Alex is a very messy and disorganized child and at first resists having a Brownie meddle in her mess. After some time the two reach an understanding and become friends, learning to rely on the other's strengths and abilities. Unfortunately, Angus brings with him a curse: all male residents of the house are struck with the desire to write poetry (or in Alex's father's case song lyrics). Brother Bennett quits the soccer team to devote his life to writing bad poetry, while Dad quits his job to dedicate his time fully to his music. The family is in danger of loosing their home and Angus, Alex, her little sister and the sister's teacher concoct a plan to break the curse. The plan involves returning the daughter of the queen of the Enchanted Realm (who set the curse upon Angus's father for falling in love with and taking away her daughter) back to her home. Coincidentally, the daughter happens to be the wizened old grandmother of Alex's teacher. They whisk the old lady away from the nursing home, where she currently resides, and take her across the ocean back to the Enchanted Realm. While on the journey the elderly princess gets younger by the minute, finally restored to her former glory upon reuniting with her mother. After a tearful homecoming the children are allowed to return home, where no real time has passed, but Angus must be punished for breaking Brownie rules, including exposing himself to humans and bringing them to the Enchanted Realm. What fate awaits poor Angus? Read the book to find out!

I have a soft spot in my heart for Bruce Coville, and not just because we both hail from the same upstate New York town. He has been around for my entire career, starting when I was a library page in the 1980's, and consistently puts our enjoyable books of quality for young readers. His books often take traditional elements of fantasy and science fiction and are re-worked in a digestible way to appeal to young people. Brownies are forgotten creatures of folk lore and I'm thrilled to see them reintroduced to a new audience. They are a perfect magical creature for children: not scary, small in size, tidy, and their best quality: tricksters. Coville's Brownie is a little guy with a big heart and an even bigger temper. We will root for Angus right from the start and applaud his efforts to help his humans, even when they resist it. Coville conveys his trademark humor throughout the book, making it very enjoyable and hard to put down. Diary of a Mad Brownie is clearly a work of fantasy, but light and contemporary enough that non-fantasy lovers will enjoy this work. It is a perfect choice for fantasy book reports for children who think they don't like fantasy. Cartoon-like illustration are sprinkled throughout making the book that much more welcoming to reluctant readers and adding to the fun. This book probably won't win any awards, but will be enjoyed by all who crack into it and it will enjoy a long shelf life in the library.

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