Review: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium (Odditorium #1) by Gregory Funaro
Author: Gregory Funaro
Series: Odditorium #1
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Format/Source: ARC/From publisher, via BEA
Age Group/Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy, Paranormal
Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master. All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim’s trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own. There’s no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into evil hands—and his new family from suffering a terrible fate. Grubb knows he’s no hero. He’s just a chimney sweep. But armed with only his courage and wits, Grubb will confront the life-or-death battle he alone is destined to fight. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
I haven’t read much Middle Grade (but some of what I have read, I’ve LOVED, like the WondLa series by Tony DiTerlizzi), but each time I pick up a new MG book, I’m pleasantly surprised. I think it’s because while YA books are slowly becoming recognized as not-just-for-teens, MG books are still thought of as books that really have no value to people over a certain age. We think that the story will be dumbed down, and won’t be as thought-provoking or engaging as a YA or adult book. But, in my experience of MG books so far, that’s just not the case.
Sure, there may not be some really deep concepts like death and things like that in MG books, but from what I’ve read, they still deal with heavy subjects and keep me interested until the very end. I don’t feel like they’re dumbed down for the reader, although maybe the twists are a bit more predictable. However, while reading Alistair Grim’s Odditorium, I found myself having lots of theories, and while some of them definitely ended up being correct, several of them were not correct at all.
I picked up Alistair Grim’s Odditorium at Book Expo America last year and knew nothing about it, other than it was the first book in a new Middle Grade series and the artwork on the cover kind of reminded me of the claymation in The Nightmare Before Christmas. But as I started reading I was pleased in so many different ways. I loved the setting, in London, sometime in the past (I’m not sure when), and I love that in this story, the fairy tales that adults tell the children are actually real. I loved the artwork on the cover as well as inside the book, especially the full-page artwork. I really loved a lot of the characters, like McClintock the magic pocket watch and Nigel the mysterious Hagrid-like character who works for Mr. Grim. And Mr. Grim himself reminded me of a mixture of some great characters: Dumbledore, Willy Wonka, and the Doctor from Doctor Who. I was happy with all the action throughout, and I really enjoyed the ending, which had some nice closure yet set us up for a sequel.
The only things that bothered me about the book is that Prince Nightshade always seemed to yell “MINE!” and it was really kind of weird. Like he was a toddler or something. And Lord Dreary always said, “Great poppycock!” which was his catchphrase I guess, but to me, when people say poppycock they mean that they don’t believe what you’re saying to them. And Lord Dreary said it in those situations, but he also said it as kind of a reaction to anything, and it felt like he didn’t use the phrase correctly a lot of the time. But those are minor things, and then again, maybe my definition of poppycock is incorrect.
Gregory Funaro gets some of my Bonus Points for the following:
- The beautiful illustrations (inside illustrations done by Vivienne To, and the cover done by Whitney Manger, Su Blackwell, and Colin Crisford) = 50,000 points
- Secret passageways, hidden compartments, and trapdoors = 50,000 points
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review.
Micheline DJanuary 15, 2015 at 3:12 pm
Oh I was really excited to see you reviewed this one! I picked it up at BEA too and while I really enjoy a good MG read, I have yet to read this one >.< It sounds like something I would really enjoy, especially with all the illustrations AND SECRET PASSAGES, TRAP DOORS OMG That and I'm a huge sucker for London…and hello Dumbledore+The Doctor ♥ Thanks for the awesome review Andrea! :)
pagesunboundJanuary 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm
I've been wanting to read this one for awhile. I think it looks really interesting! I also love middle grade books. A lot of them are just invested in telling a really good story, without being worried or burdened by other considerations.
KamiJanuary 16, 2015 at 10:38 pm
I'm with you! There is some good stuff in middle grade! I'll have to check this one out.
Kate Midnight Book GirlJanuary 19, 2015 at 1:02 pm
MG is definitely hit or miss for me. I've read some really great ones (Liesl & Po springs to mind) and I've read some bad ones (Bran Hambric, which made me sad because the author is this young guy whom I followed online back when he had a website about being a dude reading Twilight, it was funny, but his book was very… immature? I couldn't even finish it).
seriestrackerJanuary 28, 2015 at 9:00 pm
Great review! I too don't venture into MG often, but this seems like a reason to break that rule. Last few that I have read have just been ok (The Circles of Heck series, for example).