Monday, September 21, 2015

MG Review: Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

Published by: Dial Books on  April 21st 2015
Genres: Middle Grade  Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library

 The minions of Castle Hangnail have been speculating about whether their new Master or Mistress will be an Evil Wizard,  A Dark Sorceress, A Loathsome Hag or even Mad Scientist?  They aren't picky, just as long as their new master can prove to the Board of Magic that they are capable of being the master by completing the four tasks set forth by the board (take possession of the castle and grounds, secure and defend it,  commit an act of smiting and three acts of blighting and win the hearts and minds of the townsfolk).  Otherwise, Castle Hangnail is at risk of being decommissioned and all the minions will have to find a new home.  Of course the minions weren't expecting twelve-year-old Molly to show up on their doorstep wanting to be their Wicked Witch.   But, being desperate they take her at her word that she is wicked enough for the job and let her begin to complete the board's tasks.  Things seems to be going well, until an Evil Sorceress shows up claiming to be the intended master of the castle.

Castle Hangnail is an adorable book, which I can easily see elementary school children enjoying.  It would certainly make for a fun read aloud with Halloween coming up, nothing scary and quite humorous. 

"Hey, you're my minion.  Aren't I supposed to be cheering you up?  Majordomo smiled.  "Sometimes you cheer up the Master, sometimes the Master cheers you up.  Sometimes the Master hooks you to a lightning rod.  It's a complicated job, minioning."  

 I really liked Molly and her band of minions.  She desperately wants to be a Wicked Witch.  Despite never having any formal training, she feels she is qualified because her twin is "good," so she must be the "wicked one."  I also loved the distinction she makes between being "wicked" and being "evil."    "Evil is bad.  Wicked is just a little bad. "   "Wicked was turning somebody into an earwig and letting them run around for a week to give them a good scare.  Evil was turning someone into an earwig and then stepping on them."  Molly was defiantly not evil, she's actually pretty sweet, but don't let her hear you say that.    The secondary characters were also a very interesting mix, each with unique personalities , my favorite being Pins, a voodoo doll with a talking goldfish.  It's very endearing how they all rally together behind Molly at the end of the story.   I also enjoyed the illustrations throughout the book, especially the ones where it is a scene that happens in the dark, so that the page is also darkly illustrated.  Think Molly standing outside with the moon above on a darkly colored page.   And still Vernon keeps a comic style to the illustrations making them fun and entertaining.  Overall, a very cute, humorous story with lovely messages of friendship and standing up for oneself.    
 Castle Hangnail has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee. 

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