Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame
Summary: Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame
Linus and Ophelia Easterday’s deadbeat parents have left for a five year excursion to study butterflies on a faraway island, leaving the twins to the management of their eccentric Aunt Portia and Uncle Augustus. Since Aunt Portia and Uncle Augustus live in a home once inhabited by a mad scientist Cato, Linus and Ophelia waste no time exploring their new home. Soon they discover Cato’s old laboratory upstairs, filled with odd looking powders and potions, obscure magical books, and a circle painted on the middle of the floor. One night, they stumble into a magical discovery when Ophelia accidentally drops her book The Hunchback of Notre Dame into the circle on the floor.
Smoke, faint and smelling more like baby powder than flame, fogged the room. And then with a swirling snap, it all disintegrated.
Ophelia rubbed her eyes and looked inside the painted circle on the floor.
She rubbed her eyes again. I must be seeing things!
A large figure sat hunched over in the middle of the circle. He raised his head, took one look at Ophelia with his good eye and then scanned the room around him. He inhaled a shaky breath and fainted, falling forward with a thud.
With a little research in the laboratory’s library, Ophelia quickly realizes that she brought Quasimodo to life from the imaginary realms. He will stay in the “Real World” for three days at which point she must carefully return him to “Book World” in the same manner he came or else he will suffer a horrible death (similar to the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West).
Of course, figuring out what to do with a now real literary character is not the easiest of tasks. But Linus, Ophelia, and a street-smart friend Walter decide to make the most of it by sneaking Quasimodo around town and enjoying his company. Soon though, the friends realize that Cato still is alive and robbing the literature world of its artifacts. And this time, Cato is after Quasi with the help of Deacon Frollo (the hunchback’s arch enemy). Can the children keep Quasi from the clutches of Cato and yet return him in time to “Book World”?
Comments: Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame
Note: I read an advance review copy of Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, meaning that my copy may contain misprints or deleted parts that do not appear in the final edition. As a result, I will limit my comments to themes that run throughout the book.
What I disliked:
- The narrator (a book loving janitor) begins humorously by parenthesizing witty definitions of words and explanations of the art of writing. But, although enjoyable at first, the narrator soon irritated me as he continually interrupted the story (sometimes even with definitions to words my three year-old understands.)
- Several characters were described in detail (including the narrator) only to disappear almost totally from the plot of the book. Ironically, these characters were part of a literary lesson on creating secondary characters . . . maybe they will reappear in a future book? Other important characters seemed a bit flat.
- Some classic literature fans will probably cringe at the reincarnation of their beloved characters. It reminded me of the disappointment all book lovers face of watching the movie after reading the book.
- The ending was anti-climatic.
What I liked:
- Samson’s writing was engaging and humorous and reminded me of the conversational style of E. Nesbit.
- The plot was imaginative.
- Samson’s themes of kindness to others, loyalty, and perseverance
- The frequent allusions to classical literature
I thought that Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame was an enticing beginning to a new series, and I am interested to see how Samson develops her characters and plot in the future books. Christian parents will be delighted to find a new series for their children that is both wholesome and enjoyable.