Alistair Grim's Odditorium

Gregory Funaro

Book - 2015

In Victorian England, Grubb, an orphan about twelve years old, escapes his life of drudgery as a chimney sweep's apprentice and finds himself in a very strange house filled with magical objects and creatures, but soon he learns that there are dark forces seeking his new master.

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Review by Booklist Review

Grubb, a 12-year-old (or thereabouts) chimney sweep who works for the grumpy Mr. Smears, is pulled away on an adventure he never expects in this rollicking fantasy. When running from local bullies, Grubb jumps into Alistair Grim's trunk, and when he steps out, he's at the Odditorium, Grim's home for all things weird and wonderful in old London. He's chased by doom dogs, flies with multicolored fairies, and happily forgets the misery of his early life while working under the dark and enigmatic Alistair Grim. It's not all fun high jinks, however, and soon trouble comes knocking at the Odditorium's door. Funaro's world building and characters are fascinating, and the fast pace and overstuffed plot from war in the air to a daring escape from sea sirens make for an exciting story. Funaro's first book for young readers has all the playfulness of classic adventures like The Phantom Tollbooth and the intrigue of newer steampunk novels, making it a clever mash-up of mystery and merriment, ideal for kids who loved Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.--Comfort, Stacey Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Combining aspects of steampunk and fantasy, Funaro debuts with this fanciful series opener set in a 19th-century London where strange things-Odditoria-exist in secret. Chimney sweep Grubb, "twelve or thereabouts," accidentally ends up in the bizarre Odditorium of the enigmatic Alistair Grim. In this magically empowered mechanical marvel of a building he discovers mobile suits of samurai armor, a petulant fairy, a talking pocketwatch, a playful banshee, and more. But even as Grubb gets used to the constant weirdness of the Odditorium, he and its inhabitants are drawn into a conflict against the wicked Prince Nightshade and his legions of re-animated skeletal warriors and other monsters. Funaro's knack for memorable characters and scenarios shines in this frenetic, entertaining romp. Action and mayhem abound, and although the story risks overloading readers with too many disparate elements and unusual creations (a glossary is included), Funaro brings it all together with clever worldbuilding. The story is enhanced by To's illustrations, which blend realism and exaggeration to great effect. Ages 10-13. Author's agent: Bill Contardi, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. Illustrator's agent: Shannon Associates. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-The wondrous Odditorium, a unique mechanical/magical apparatus, houses a collection of curious people and objects, including quick-witted Grubb. Told in the engaging brogue of an apprentice chimney sweeper, this novel seems to have all the ingredients for a fun middle grade read, blending fantasy with Dickensian-esque fiction. Although the initial ideas and characters have strong promise, the execution of the story is rather ordinary. Most notably, the potential of the Odditorium is lost when the plot shifts away from the discovery of its secrets and changes tack to follow a more traditional plotline plagued with contrivance, as underdog Grubb confronts the villain, Prince Nightshade. Secondary characters are caricaturelike and the writing style devolves from Grubb's charming direct address of the reader to focus on plot and dialogue. Thus when the author shifts back to the blithe period conversation in the very last chapter, the change is unpleasantly abrupt. Periodic black-and-white illustrations have a flat, squared-off cartoon style. Though they don't do much to expand the story, their inclusion may help this title appeal to some readers. VERDICT This fantasy/adventure series will be best appreciated by younger middle grade readers; an additional purchase.-Erin Reilly-Sanders, Ohio State University, Columbus (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Victorian-era adventure with a supernatural stock of magical and mythical players.Grubb ("no first or last name") was a doorstep drop-off adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Smears. With the death of compassionate Mrs. Smears, he is left in the care of Mr. Smears, a brutish chimney sweep. Grubb is forced to sweep chimneys for no pay while nasty Mr. Smears broods over beer. After a mishap involving soot and a horrid hotelier, Grubb hides in the trunk of a parting guest to avoid a beating. The guest is Alistair Grim, and when Grubb exits the trunk, he is in the titular Odditorium, a collective of "Odditoria" (among them a talking watch and a trickster banshee). Grubb is invited to work for Grim under the proviso that he won't reveal magical secrets, but when he unwittingly breaks that cardinal rule, he attracts Grim's nemesis. Battles, kidnapping and sorcery ensue. The series opener's Anglophile charm is occasionally muddied with an abundance of character introductions. To navigate this bevy of names and species, there is a character list and glossary. Black-and-white illustrations somewhere between daguerreotype and manga supplement the vivid textual imagery. Grubb's cheat-to-the-audience moments at either end of the story are frustrating, if widely spaced ("My apologies, but I'm afraid you'll have to take my word"). Verne-ian fantasy and reversal of fortune la Dickens will lure readers into this good-vs.-evil series debut. (Fantasy. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.