A dedicated slob and a neatnik brownie, both with fierce tempers, face off in this much-expanded version of Coville’s short story “Clean as a Whistle,” published in Oddly Enough (1994).
Coming home from school one day, young Alexandra is utterly freaked out to find her formerly chaotic bedroom neat as a pin—the work, it turns out, of her family’s ancestral brownie, Angus Cairns, newly arrived from distant Scotland. Along with adding background history, the author recasts the shorter, original tale in a mix of journal entries by both Angus and Alex, interspersed with chat transcripts and other insertions. Coville also saddles the beleaguered brownie with a double curse: not only must Angus tend certain female members of the McGonagall line in each generation, but every male member of the household will at the same time be struck by an uncontrollable need to write bad, bad poetry. So, as Angus and Alex sort through anger issues on the way to a not-too-hard-won détente, they are subjected to such outpourings as “Oh no! I’ve caught the itch of love, / My ookie wookie turtledove” from her dad and teenage brother. Fortunately for both characters and readers, a way to break both curses lies fortuitously close at hand. Kidby provides engagingly posed pen-and-ink portraits of the various mundane and magical cast members, as well as a particularly demonic-looking cat.
A knee-slapper in this or any edition. (Fantasy. 9-11)