by Natalie Lloyd & illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Number of pages: 304
Published: January 3oth, 2018
Opening Line: " Once upon a Wednesday, many years ago, a small boy made a brave decision."
The seven Problim children and their one small pet pig have been living comfortably in the Swapy Woods while their archeologist parents have been off doing important research. Then there's an explosion that demolishes their home and Sundae, the eldest Problim uncovers a deed to their grandfather Frank Problim's home in Lost Cove. Meanwhile, in Lost Cove, an auction is occurring for the purchase of House #7 on Main Street otherwise known as the Problim Mansion. A horrible, villainous woman, Desdemona O'Pinion is trying to outbid everyone to ensure her family gets the house, but secretly she just wants to search it for a map to a hidden treasure. There also might've been a bit of a disagreement between the Problim's and O'Pinion's in the past so once she's searched the place, she plans to smash it to bits. When the Seven Problim's arrive at the mansion, Desdemona tries to have them taken into custody by the Society for the Protection of Unwanted Children (a group she created) under the pretense that they are not the rightful heirs to the house. However, the mayor steps in and gives the children twenty-one days to prove they are in fact a Problim.
The seven Problim children's names and character traits come from a rhyme about which day of the week they were born on. "Monday's child is fair of face (Mona), Tuesday's child is full of grace (Toot), Wednesday's child is full of woe (Wendell), Thursday's child has far to go (Thea), Friday's child is loving and giving (Frida), Saturday's child works hard for a living (Sal) but the child who's born on the Sabbath day is good and wise in every way (Sundae)." I absolutely adored these siblings, they're all so unique and have such varied likes and abilities. Sundae is the oldest, followed by Sal. Thea and Wendell are twins who are starting to branch out from sharing everything together. Toot is just as his names describes, the youngest of the bunch who is prone to farts that have their own unique smell, it's how he communicates with the other children and they've begun cataloging them (their probably up to #200 by now). Frida is stealthy, refers to herself as the Fox and talks in rhymes. My favorites are Thea and Mona. Thea is fearful and not at ease around the children in the neighborhood, her special bond with her brother is really sweet and it's sad when she gets jealous when Wendell starts to become friends with their next-door neighbor, Violet O'Pinion.
Mona, she's something special, she's slightly scary, smart, secretive and imaginative and made me think of Wednesday from the Addams Family. Mostly because when I was in elementary or maybe even middle school kids liked to tease me by singing the Addams family song to me, there might've been a few Grizzly Adams references or even singing that song from 1977, Short People too. But there's this one line from the Addams family song, you know the one, " They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, They're all together ooky, the Addams Family." The Problim's reminded me a bit of them, in a none spooky or creepy way. They both are a tight-knit family and have interests that other people might think are slightly strange. Morticia had carnivorous plants that could wrap themselves around you, and Sal engineers flowers that have a particular smell, keeps a foggy garden of Wrangling Ivy and carries his gardening tools on his sleeve ala Edward Scissorhands. Wednesday had her spiders, and Mona has a Venus flytrap and circus spiders that she can send out to deliver messages. Both had neighbors who were curious yet also slightly scared of them. Yet both are totally fine with who they are, they aren't changing their personality to fit in.
One very fun example is how at Thea and Wendell's birthday party they celebrate with the Problim family traditional "smash cake" (just like it sounds smashing your face into your cake). Despite the initial lukewarm welcome they receive from their neighbors, the siblings still reach out and try to make friends. Always conveying the important, beautiful message of "look at someone heart-first," that "there's never an excuse to be cruel. When you meet someone new, think first about all the good and the sad and wonder and worry that's probably blooming in their heart. Just like yours."
If you've read The Key to Extraordinary or A Snicker of Magic, then you certainly will enjoy The Problim Children it has the same quirky magical feel to it with the bonus of a mystery based on rumors about a family feud, a riddle involving a prophecy of sevens and a treasure hunt for something that might be hidden somewhere in the house. There are even mechanical animals like a squirrel with a purple tail, brass rabbit's and who could miss out on circus spiders?
"Tell me a tale worth telling back."
"Any treasure worth finding is worth seeking. And you seek with your head and your heart-not just your dusty sneakers."