Author/Illustrator: Scott Gustafson ● Published: 2011 ● Publisher: Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers ● ISBN: 978-1-4169-9764-1 ● Pages: 201 ● Illustrations: pencil drawings on approximately every other page ● Text density: approximately 3 paragraphs per page ● Age: 8-12 ● Source: Review copy from author
Summary: Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe
Meet Eddie Poe, the youth behind such classics as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado”. Orphaned and lonely, his companions consist of an torturing imp McCobber and a sensible Raven. And chances of being understood by his Puritanical foster father John Allan are slim due to Poe’s artistic temperament inherited from his theatrical family.
The town, the street, and the houses were all dark and quiet, all except one. In the attic window of the Allan house, a candle burned as the young Edgar Poe grappled with a rhyme.
When a local rooster of the town judge ends up precariously bagged with Eddie’s cat on top of a weather vane, Eddie finds himself standing suspiciously in the scene of the crime with no memories but a hazy dream to stand on. Blamed for the incident, he now has only twenty-four hours to prove his innocence to John Allan and avoid a brutal beating. With the help of McCobber and the Raven will he be able to solve the mystery? What other mysteries will he uncover in the process?
Comments: Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe
Contains spoilers . . .
Eddie turned out to be a very difficult book to review. I think that some people would love it, but others may be uncomfortable with the darker themes. I am a true fan of Scott Gustafson in general, I have referred before to his Classic Fairy Tales (a favorite of ours) and Alphabet Soup (see my activity for this book). So, I hope that the following comments from a Christian perspective will be fair but still honest.
- Mixture of older language and modern idioms was somewhat jarring.
- Slow moving plot
- Demonic themes – This book did have a dark side (hardly surprising for a book about Poe) that some parents might think inappropriate for the age level. Poe is accompanied by McCobber the demon throughout the book and taunted by him. Although the beginning hints that McCobber could have possessed Poe and caused him to commit the deed against the rooster in a trance, the mystery turns out to have a less than otherworldly explanation. I was uncomfortable with the demonic imagery in the beginning, but as I understood where Gustafson was taking his book I became more comfortable with his themes. In any case, I did not think Eddie was scary but would err more on dealing too lightly with the serious problem of demonic activity.
- Negative view of religion and authority structures – I did think it interesting that Poe’s foster father would be the one notably Christian character of the book and yet be an unjust man who uses his authority to squelch the thoughts and desires of all under him. As a Christian, I hate seeing Christianity portrayed as harsh and unjust (because it isn’t), but I do realize that men like John Allan do exist and claim the name of Christian and even use it to excuse their unchristian behavior. I just would have liked to see a more balanced view of Christianity portrayed.
Some nicer comments:
- Some great moral themes at the end of the book: Poe chooses to suffer punishment unjustly to save a friend. In turn, the friend chooses loyalty over personal shame.
- Love Gustafson’s artwork. The amount of illustrations will encourage children who struggle transitioning from picture books to full novels.
- With a couple nifty twists, Gustafson keeps the reader in suspense (although a bit suspicious) until the end of the book.
Have you read this book? Don’t be shy . . . chime in and let me know what you thought!