Book Review : Horton Halfpott and the Extremely Long Title

Horton Halfpott : or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugtick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger. 2011. (ARC)

I must admit—I love long titles.  So when we received an ARC of Tom Angleberger’s newest book, I liked the book as soon as I read the title.  And the rest of the book did not disappoint.

M’Lady Luggertuck has always run a tight ship at Smugtick Manor.  Meals are served on time, firewood is stacked neatly and quietly, and all the servants, especially Horton the kitchen dishwasher, know their place.  But as the book begins, something inconceivable happens that changes everything at the Manor.

M’Lady told her servant not to pull her corset as tight as usual.

As a result of not being so pinched and grumpy, M’Lady agrees to invite her nephew, for a visit. He is in love with Celia who is visiting near Smugtick Manor, and he wants to be closer to her.  In fact, M’Lady even agrees to have a ball for them.  Her son, Luther, decides to steal the girl from his cousin, because she is extremely wealthy, and he comes up with an Evil Plan.  When the Luggertucks’ famous treasure disappears (as well as a Valuable Wig), M’Lady hires a famous detective, who is so ineffective that Horton and the snooping stable boys start investigating.  Luther, meanwhile, makes a deal with some Shipless Pirates to kidnap Celia during the ball.

And the chaos goes on…and all of it is a result of the Loosening.

Horton Halfpott is a entertaining and funny mystery, and it reminded me of Charles Dickens, if Mr. Dickens wrote tongue-in-cheek comedies for kids.  In fact, the endnote says that, of the authors that helped inspire Angleberger, the most important was Dickens, “who is funnier than you would think.” The story is written in third person with lots of asides, the characters have delightful names (the trio of stableboys are Bump, Blight, and Blemish), and Angleberger’s witty descriptions of their personalities are a hoot. Give Horton to intermediate teachers who are looking for an entertaining read-aloud as well as to reluctant readers, mystery lovers, and anyone else who just wants a laugh.

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