The Fantastic Family Whipple
By Matthew Ward
Expected publication August 29, 2013 by Razorbill
Arthur Whipple is perhaps the most extraordinary member of his family, which may be surprising, as his family has broken a number of world records. What makes Arthur extraordinary is that he hasn't broken ANY records - not a single one. He sticks out like a sore thumb. But when some mysterious and potentially life-threatening accidents befall his family, will Arthur discover that perhaps his talents lie elsewhere?
I remember spotting this one at TLA and thinking it sounded fun, so I was happy to discover the e-galley available on Edelweiss. I requested it, happy to add another title to my tween reading list.
I will give you this - the book is fun and pretty absurd. It's got an interesting premise, though when you boil it down, it's the same old "kid feels different from the rest of his family" story. World records, though, hold immense appeal for children and it's basically brilliant for Ward to try to capitalize upon this. World record books are consistently checked out at the library and it will be no problem to handsell this to any kid between the ages of seven and twelve.
The story is funny and the writing is clever - somewhat reminiscent of Roald Dahl (though, in my opinion, not quite of the same caliber). It will be fairly easy to get kids to pick up this book. Where I find it lacking, though, is in keeping kids engaged. I found the first 200 pages or so to be very slow-moving, and I'd be surprised to see kids persevere through the relative lack of action that bogs down the front half of this story. The action does pick up midway through the story, and it keeps a fairly consistent pace from that point on - but getting there will be the battle this book faces. Additionally, a lot of readers will be disappointed and frustrated with the end - I know I was. It seems as if Ward realized partway through writing that he wasn't going to be able to tell this whole story without making this book even more monstrously long than it already is, so he just decided to end it. It's a very abrupt and unsatisfactory ending, but it may entice readers to pick up the second book, as most of the action was just getting started. Personally, I'm on the fence about whether I'll search out the sequel.
In summary, this book will be easy to sell but perhaps difficult to stick with. Fans of Roald Dahl or The Candy Shop War may be best suited for this read. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.