Book Report: Castle Hangnail

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Hunh. I just did a search of my blog for mentions of Ursula Vernon, and, well, I’ve mentioned her twitter feed a couple of times, but have never written a Report on any of her things. I assume that’s because I started reading her stuff mostly after I stopped writing reports, but it’s probably also because her stuff is, well, it’s a wide range of stuff, much of which I probably wouldn’t have written Reports about at any point. The Youngest Member liked the Danny Dragonbreath books enormously, and they impressed me as a grupp as being extraordinary works in the reluctant-reader category, but I didn’t so much read them. I have read the Harriet Hamsterbone books, which both my children adore, but I can’t say that I would have bothered writing about them. I’ve read a few of the T. Kingfisher short stories and novellas, which I liked but didn’t love enough to write a report; even when I was logging books, I didn’t report on stray short stories unless I was doing to equivalent of grabbing people by the lapels and shoving the story at them.

Digger, well, Digger is a horse of a different color. I am surprised I didn’t write about Digger. I mean, it’s an amazing work, really a magnificent achievement. I should have written about Digger.

Which brings me to Castle Hangnail. This one, I am totally doing the equivalent of grabbing you by the lapels and shoving it at you.

I’m not sure I’m going to say anything more about it. Oh, it’s a middle-grade book, I suppose I should say that—not as gritty as YA, but with more thump to it than you might expect from the cover. In Pitchbot terms, it’s the Oz books crossed with Dianne Wynne Jones, but with moles! Or something. I’m tempted to say if you liked such-and-such but I don’t know how I would end that list. I think if you like any sort of imaginative children’s literature, you should read this.

And, yes, it’s a patriarchy-smashing, trope-subverting joy of a book from a political standpoint. I want the Youngest Member (y’all know he’s ten years old now, right?) to grow up reading this sort of thing, not as we were sometimes given The Paper Bag Princess or Free to Be You and Me or other excellent things that were designed to break through our chauvinist expectations and rear us with open minds, but because that’s what is out there these days: excellent things that happen to also comment on the flaws (and strengths) of our inherited institutions, values, symbols and rituals, because that’s what art does.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump,

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