Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti

A fun read that would make a great family movie!

Synopsis from the publisher:
The young Bellweathers–fourteen-year-old Spider, thirteen-year-old Ninda, and the ten-year-old triplets, Brick, Spike, and Sassy–and their equally peculiar parents have brought constant chaos to the once-peaceful village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay. Still, no one has suffered more than their loyal butler, Benway, who has finally had enough. He is secretly writing his tell-all memoirs, packing his bags, and planning his move to a tropical location, Far, Far Away.But when the siblings discover Benway is preparing to leave their lighthouse home, they band together to prove how much he’s needed, as only Bellweathers can. . . . Full of comic capers and close calls, an art heist and albino alligators, and good intentions gone wrong, Kristin Clark Venuti’s hilarious debut novel introduces a new family that is absolutely unforgettable.

I had been wanting to read Leaving the Bellweathers for a while, but moved it to the top of my reading pile when I learned that Kristin Clark Venuti's sequel, The Butler Gets a Break, was coming out.  I can't read the sequel if I haven't read the original!  The cover hooked me, the characters were quirky and funny, and the storyline simple and fun.

The Bellweathers' butler, Tristan Benway, has been serving them, and their ancestors for just under 200 years, to fulfill an Oath of Fealty.  Most of the book are excerpts taken directly from the butler's journal.

"The happy news is that the two hundred years are nearly up, and I will be free of this circus which masquerades as a household."

Even though Benway, the Bellweathers' butler, is planning his escape from the lighthouse, it doesn't take the reader long to realize that Benway is soft on these crazy kids.  His complaints are justified, sure!  The eldest girl hosts a troupe of circus performers, and their pet seal, in her bedroom; the eldest boy thinks a hungry endangered albino alligator is the ideal pet for a lighthouse; and the triplets...well...
"...it is an unfortunate fact that the triplets never communicate at a decibel below earsplitting unless they are Up to No Good."

..and they are often Up to No Good.  Ah, yes, Kristin Clark Venuti loves to capitalize in Benway's journal, to emphasize his dislike for certain nuances of the Bellweather family.  He counts down his finals days in the house, but finds the faults of the children charming, as does the reader.  Still, even when he begins to doubt his plans to leave, Benway reminds himself:

"I only know that any action ever taken by any Bellweather family member has always, and will always, result in crisis"

Maybe it was the their-crisis-is-bigger-than-mine aspect that made this such a fun read for me!
I only have one criticism, which isn't really a negative when you see the big picture.  While the content was fun and imaginative and appropriate for children, I felt a lot of the humor and vocabulary may be lost on younger children, and would go over better for the pre-teen set.  No one understands sarcasm better than a twelve-year old. 

Interestingly, this one criticism I have is the one thing I love about some of my favorite children's movies.  Don't you just love going to see a movie with your kids, and there are little one-liners that are benign to the kids, but hilarious for the parents?  There were a few times I felt that way about this book.   So, if you're going to get this book for your Middle Grade reader, read it together!

Oh, and when you're finished go read Kristin Clark Venuti's Butler Tristan Benway's website - hilarious!

*Disclosure:  I borrowed a copy of this book from my library. 

Many thanks to Kathleen for recommending - and then reminding me to read - this book! 

Book Extras:
Leaving the Bellweathers Website
Egmont's Leaving The Bellweathers Page

About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12  *(I believe the reading level to be more from 11-13)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840061
ISBN-13: 978-1606840061

About the Author:
Kristin Clark Venuti wrote on many things while growing up, including her father’s prized dictionary, her mother’s walls, and the family dog (with blueberry ink, of course). Now a children’s-theater producer, scene painter, and two-time black belt, she lives with her husband, children, and their ink-free dog in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Leaving the Bellweathers is her first novel.










2 comments:

Girlinbetween said...

OoooOOOOooo Great review!

wisteria said...

You're right about the 12 year old and sarcasm. I used to teach 6-8th graders. I loved that about them. Sounds like a good read. Thanks.

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