This book is silly. In a good way, sure, but silly. It has the same kind of pseudonymous author that the Series of Unfortunate Events and the Secret series have, but this book is much more cheerful!
Fern has always felt like an oddball in Drudgers’ house. Her parents are bland and boring, and they try to quell the strange things that Fern says and does–in particular, her fantastical stories about bats that turn into marbles, snowflakes that spell out words, and nuns that turn into lampposts. When the Bone shows up at their door with a boy Fern’s age in tow, Fern finds out that she was switched at birth, and she goes with the Bone–her birth father–for a summer of wonder and confusion. Fern discovers that her mother, who died in childbirth, her father, and her father’s worst enemy (the Miser) are all Anybodies, who can turn into other people or objects, and have other powers as well. Fern and her father, in disguise, make their way to her grandmother’s house to beat the Miser to Fern’s mother’s book, The Art of Being Anybody. Of course, hijinks ensue.
I love all the literary references to famous children’s books at Mrs. Appleplum’s house (that is, Fern’s grandmother). In fact, Mrs. Appleplum sets up a series of tests for Fern to see if she will recognize all the references. The narrator, though not as distinctive as Lemony Snicket, is entertaining enough. And Fern herself is great. She has always struggled to fit in with her bland family, and now she is in a wild new world where she can shake things out of books and reach into paintings and maybe even transform into somebody else. The only thing that kept me from rating this book higher is that, despite all the magical and weird things that happen in the story, the world is not very vivid. Mrs. Appleplum’s house is made almost completely out of books–let’s have more of that! Hobbits and fairies live in the backyard–give me some details! I’ll probably finish the trilogy, but I doubt I’ll reread the books after that.
Rating: Good but Forgettable