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Rare Beasts
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About the Author

Charles Ogden is an avid camper and fisherman. He collects insects and has travelled in pursuit of various specimens to the North Pole, the South Pole, and Poland. Mr Ogden and his insect collection make their home in a cool, dry, preservation-friendly environment, far removed from prying eyes.

Reviews

Gr 4-6-Twelve-year-old twins Edgar and Ellen live alone in the weirdest, most depressing house in the town of Nod's Limbs. Well, almost alone-they have Pet, a greasy, one-eyed hairball creature that doesn't do much, and the twins prefer livelier victims. With no interfering parents around, they spend their time playing their own version of hide-and-seek, where the finder gets to torture the hider, using a startling variety of techniques from simple ropes and tripwires to swinging pendulums straight out of Edgar Allan Poe. The siblings are plotting an attack on a neighboring town, but they need cash for battle supplies so they decide to open an exotic-animal business. Lacking any real bizarre beasts to sell, the terrible two stage a raid on the town; kidnap the local pets; and dress them up with feathers, glue, glitter, and paint, and then offer the grotesque creatures back to the townspeople at preposterous prices. The book aspires to be a deadpan mock-gothic in the mold of Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (HarperCollins), but the action here is just mean-spirited. There is a disturbing edge of explicit cruelty, particularly to animals. Edgar and Ellen are unrelievedly amoral, and they show neither remorse nor regret for their actions. The eerie black-and-white Charles Addamsesque illustrations add a touch of grim humor, but they're not enough to lighten this dark tale.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

This somewhat derivative farce launches the Edgar & Ellen series starring 12-year-old twins. The two live in a grimy, gloomy mansion with Pet, "a matted ball of long, dark hair, similar in appearance to an old dirty wig"; Pet is also one-eyed, as the nifty lenticular eye affixed to the book's cover stresses. In the absence of any parents, the siblings spend their days harassing each other and plotting ways to create "mischief and mayhem." Learning from TV that collectors pay high prices for exotic animals, the diabolic duo devise a money-raising scheme to fund various elaborate pranks (e.g., dumping sacks of white pepper into muffin batter at a bakery). After purloining the neighbors' pets, the two use paint, glitter and Christmas decorations previously nabbed from other people's yards to transform the animals into "rare beasts." They then display the critters in a puppet theater that they've stolen from a kindergarten classroom and pull the menagerie through town on an old cart. The pace lags considerably as Edgar and Ellen try unsuccessfully to sell the ridiculous-looking creatures to the townsfolk before the neighborhood kids-red-eyed from crying over their missing pets-blow the whistle on the twins' nefarious doings. First-time author Ogden's outlandish, hyperbolic humor recalls Lemony Snicket's tales of woe, yet this narrative's intermittent slapstick quality falls flat. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 9-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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