Leaving the Bellweathers

by Kristin Clark Venuti
ages: 10+
First sentence: “It is nighttime in the village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay.”
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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File this one under delightfully odd.

The Bellweathers are a family that leave in the Lighthouse on the Hill by Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay. There’s dad, Dr. Bellweather, an inventor who has a habit of unleashing his “peculiar sense of humor.” There’s mom, Lillian, who loves to paint… the house. Over and over and over and over again. Then, there’s the kids. Spider, age 14, whose interest tends toward the violent animals, and who is determined to set up the first Endangered Albino Alligator refuge. Second in line is 13-year-old Ninda, Determined to help the Oppressed and Exploited. And will go to any lengths to do so. And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s the 9 year old triplets: Brick, Spike and Sassy. Always Up to No Good and determined to be artists, saying they are a handful is a massive understatement.

Keeping this, um, unique family together is their trusty butler, Tristan Benway. Except, he’s there only because his ancestor, 200 years ago, made an oath of fealty to the Bellweather family. There’s only 8 weeks, 2 hours and 27 minutes until GLOAT (Glorious Liberation and Oath Abandonment Time) and it’s everything Benway can do to keep it together until he can leave and get a cottage Far, Far Away.

While it wasn’t a consistent thing, there were parts of this book that had me in stitches. From Benway’s deadpan observations (he’s the one who calls Dr. Bellweather’s temper a “peculiar sense of humor”) to the occasional footnotes, to the absurd plot, I found myself either smiling, chuckling or snorting out loud. I haven’t read this book that was so… well… unusual, in a long, long time.

That’s not to say it’s for everyone: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: humor is a tricky thing. But, this one tickled my funny bone just right.

Good thing, too.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)

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