Written by Larissa Theule
Illustrations by Adam S. Doyle
Carolrhoda Books 10/01/2014
Age 8 to 12 104 pages
“Welcome to Bald’s Farm. Well, perhaps it’s not Bald’s Farm anymore. The old man has kicked the bucket, setting off a wave of conflict from the muddy pig pen to the tall wheat fields. In this darkly funny, slightly supernatural chain of tales, no creature is safe. Not Leonard Grey, a spider with sophisticated tastes. Not Esmeralda, a resentful one-footed pig. Not Tulip, a plant with a mean streak. And as for Bones, the old man’s son, and Fat, his winged rival? They’ll learn that danger lurks in the strangest of places . . .”
“Fat stood on the topmost branch of the tree, gazing in the direction of the farmhouse.”
Bones is the son of his father, the farm owner, who has most recently passed away. Fat is the former farmer’s fairy. They hate each other with a passion usually reserved for love. Now that Bone’s father has died, Bones will run the farm and his first priority: get rid of excess Fat.
In the span of one day, Bones tries to take out Fat, who tries to take out Bones. The pigs must move around on less and less feet to supply Bones with his favorite meal of pig foot stew. Pa may be dead, but Bones is still hungry. Ma, who is crying herself blind ventures out to the pigpen to grab a foot. Which one does she get?
Leonard’s family thinks he is the strangest spider that has ever spun a web. He cannot sneak and lives alone. He reads poetry while drinking herbal tea. Down below, Fat is making a new potion and needs the fresh blood of a spider. Leonard picks this moment to prove he can sneak. He cannot.
The Dead Man Song is for Priscilla Mae, the escaped spider for which Leonard has found love. She sees a group of animals honoring the dead farmer’s passing. Jimmy’s in Love pits mouse against mouse for the love of a mouse across the kitchen floor. Cat lurks on the floor, waiting for a wandering mouse. Sometimes he greets the mouse.
“Good afternoon, mousie-pie.”
Sometimes he pounces. Occasionally, that tricky cat does both. A mouse just never knows. Jimmy decides to take a chance but the floor is full of water—salty, tear stained water. Daisy and Tulip are the best of friends, sharing a puddle. All is well, until little sprouts move in and choke the water supply. Daisy and Tulip argue over how to get the sprouts to leave. The differences could mean the end of Tulip or Daisy.
Finally, Dog Alfred visits his Ma. Ma wants Alfred to go home. Alfred is sneezing. He has a cold. Alfred is upset, (and sets up Ma to speak a line of funny I love)
“Ma,” he said, [pleading voice] “I came all this way. I can’t go home now.”
“You live next door,” she said.
Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is a fast read with only 104 pages. On those 104 pages, every word counts thanks to wonderful writing and editing. Each story has something to teach kids. In Leonard Grey III, Leonard learns it is okay to be yourself and love is better than alone. Fat feels morally obligated to care for his neighbors, even when he is the one who injured said neighbor. Be nice to others; get to know your neighbors; be responsible for each other. Esmeralda must decide which is more important, her jealousy and “revenge” or the good of the group. Fat and Bones is philosophy 101 for the middle grades.
I am not a fan of the cover. The moon grinning as it does is eerie, but that is the intent. The illustrations use dark tones of green, grey, and black. The image is often part of the shadow or obscured by it. I am sorry to say, I am not a fan of these illustrations. I love the individual stories. I enjoyed the way one story depends on the other. What happens in one story—or does not happen—affects another story, which affects another, and so on, yet none may be the wiser. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories play this out for kids in a way they can understand.
Humor plays a big part, easing what are actually dark themes of death, jealousy, war, and dejection into an enjoyable, funny story, odd as that may sound. Some kids may not like the darker, philosophical themes, while others will love them. I think the older the child, the more they will enjoy Fat and Bones.
These Seven stories, all intertwined, are a great read. Each story has a unique mix of characters from the Bald Farm. Each has their own plot, conflict, and resolution, yet the stories build on each other, need each other to live. There are many things kids can learn from these stories while reading a funny, heart-felt whole divided into parts that seem to stand on their own—because they do. Older kids will enjoy this book. Adults will enjoy this book. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is the author’s debut.
FAT AND BONES AND OTHER STORIES. Test copyright © 2014 by Larissa Theule. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Adam S. Doyle. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.
Purchase Fat and Bones at Amazon—B&N—Book Depository—Lerner Books—your favorite bookstore.
Learn more about Fat & Bones: And Other Stories HERE
Meet the author, Larissa Theule, at her twitter page: https://twitter.com/larissatheule
Meet the illustrator, Adam S. Doyle, at his website: http://adamsdoyle.com
Find other middle grade novels at the Carolrhoda Books blog: http://www.carolrhoda.blogspot.com/
Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group.
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews