Rupert Brown discovers a family as odd as his own—but in which food, clothing, warmth, and money are abundant and barely noticed.
Ten-year-old Rupert’s family is so large that his mother claims she can’t remember all the children’s names. Food is scarce, and the older children must sleep under the beds for lack of room. Quiet, shy Rupert is sweetly earnest as he tries to stay optimistic. By chance, Rupert finds himself inside the mansion of the richest family in his town of Steelville, Ohio, on Christmas Day, “full to the top” with food. Following a bewildering series of family games, he’s the winner of a pile of amazing presents, and it is nearly more than he can bear to lose all his prizes at the last moment. The members of the eccentric Rivers family are casually generous yet callously unaware of Rupert’s dire circumstances as he returns home in the cold and snow. In the weeks that follow, and one after another, Mrs. Rivers, Uncle Henry, Uncle Moffat, and Aunt Hazelnut each reach out to offer Rupert a share in their own magical and slightly weird adventures. The result is enriching indeed, though Rupert’s constant hunger as food is promised and then whisked away is both palpable to readers and emblematic of this Dahl-esque gulf between classes. All the characters are assumed to be the default white.
Horvath is at her odd, arch best here—generous with her wry observations of people and their awkward relationships and foibles. (Fiction. 9-12)