A middle-grade novel tells the story of a girl’s monstrous discovery on the family farm.
Thirteen-year-old Limphetta “Limpy” O’Malley wants nothing more than to escape her Podunk town of Flesherton and attend a prestigious school for the arts. Local legend says that her family’s potato farm is cursed—the previous owner’s barn burned down, killing the prize horses inside—but for the O’Malleys, it has been merely unprofitable. The bank is threatening to foreclose, which means the only way Limpy is going to a private school is if she manages to win a scholarship. One night, punished by her draconian father and with the imaginary encouragements of her dead mother filling her head, Limpy is moving sacks of potatoes from one side of the cellar to the other when she detects a mysterious box half-buried in the dirt: “The top was a scrollwork of runes and symbols. A tiny sarcophagus, but whatever lay inside didn’t seem very dead.” Limpy opens the rattling box with her shovel. Inside she spies four eggs of different colors that quickly hatch into strange, fuzzy creatures, like newborn mammals or birds. They’re not exactly cute, but they’re too small to be evil. At least that’s what Limpy thinks, until livestock starts to disappear around the farm. Limpy thought money was the worst of her problems, but it may turn out that she’s awakened the real curse that hangs over her family’s land. Stewart’s (The Terminals: Spark, 2014, etc.) prose is full of the grit and grime one would expect from a novel set on a potato farm (at one point, Limpy’s brother Dylan “stuffed a baby potato up his nose, plugged the free nostril and shot the potato so that it hit her chest”). With its tyrannical parents, moronic siblings, goofy monsters, and dark humor, the book summons the works of middle-grade master Roald Dahl. Young readers interested in less cuddly fare should enjoy this offbeat story of curses, creatures, and lessons on finding satisfaction in one’s place in the world.
A darkly funny rural tale with a scary bent.