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THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS
by Arthur Slade ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 22, 2009
Steampunk is hot, and here the tropes are further enlivened by literary shout-outs. Hunchbacked Modo (abandoned near Notre Dame as an infant) possesses the astounding ability to transform his appearance for a limited time. His mysterious benefactor serves England, but it is Modo and lovely fellow “agent” Octavia whose adventures save the day from mad Dr. Hyde’s inventions and the plotting of the Clockwork Guild. Modo’s palpable loneliness—his true face causes intense revulsion—evokes sympathy and makes his success that much more meaningful. Fast action carries the story through awkward dialogue; fortunately, doing and thinking rather than talking takes center stage. Regular glimpses from the villain’s perspectives allows readers to fully appreciate Slade’s inventive imagination—their technology involves robots, potions and imprisoned orphans. The escape of most of the baddies is almost welcome as it means they can all lock horns again, and the question of whether Modo will show Octavia his true self remains unanswered. An excellent start to a promising new series. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2009
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009
TEENS & YOUNG ADULT HISTORICAL FICTION | TEENS & YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY | TEENS & YOUNG ADULT FICTION
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by Arthur Slade
IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER
by Laura Nowlin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 6, 2024
A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.
In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me , three characters tell their sides of the story.
Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.
Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024
TEENS & YOUNG ADULT SOCIAL THEMES | TEENS & YOUNG ADULT FICTION | TEENS & YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE
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by Laura Nowlin
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
by Rebecca Ross ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.
A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.
In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette . Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.
Pub Date: April 4, 2023
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023
TEENS & YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY | TEENS & YOUNG ADULT FAMILY
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by Rebecca Ross
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The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
Posted by Amy on Sep 8, 2014 in Book Reviews , Saskatchewan | 0 comments
Number of Pages: 275
Age Range: 12-14
Review: Kind-hearted and taught to expect fear and rejection, Modo is a sensitive character with honourable intentions and a desire to protect those weaker than he is. Octavia, as an orphan taken under Mr. Socrates’ wing to be one of his spies, has similar characteristics for different reasons. Together, they make a great team, sussing out the Clockwork Guild’s evil intentions and ignoring the orders of those in power to save the innocents. The Hunchback Assignments is an epic steampunk storyline, and epically told by author Arthur Slade.
I loved all of the non-evil characters. Modo for his quietly heroic nature, Octavia for her steadfast determination in life, Mr. Socrates for recognizing the potential in Modo instead of writing him off as a freak, Tharpa’s skilled instruction and obvious care for his students, Mrs. Finchley for her role as Modo’s surrogate and loving mother. I cried for Oscar and Oppie because neither one of them deserved what happened to them at the hands of Dr. Hyde. Because I feel so invested in them, I am eager to read the rest of Slade’s Hunchback series.
Acknowledging that the following paragraph is conjecture on my part, when it came to Modo wondering if Mr. Socrates truly cared about him or just viewed him as one of his spies, I knew that Modo never needed to doubt Mr. Socrates’ affections. Why? Because Modo’s story is an offshoot of Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame’s story, only while Quasimodo was treated as something less than human by Claude Frollo, Modo is at least respected by Mr. Socrates. I know that because Mr. Socrates names him Modo, which Slade tells his reader means ‘formed,’ a reference to his belief that Modo is a person and complete despite his appearance. In comparison, Quasimodo then means ‘partially formed,’ clearly showing Frollo’s attitudes toward Quasimodo in his name choice.
Slade’s story is a page-turner, the action is well-paced and will keep readers on the edge of their seats hoping everything works out once the true horror of the Clockwork Guild’s intentions are revealed. It’s a book with deeply disturbing aspects, causing it to be appropriately cross-labelled as steampunk, thriller and horror all at the same time.
I quite enjoyed the themes of science versus Mother Nature and the contrast of Modo’s obvious strength and ability against his appearance which is perceived as a deformity. Slade has given me much to think about in terms of what control of mind and body actually means, and also reinforced my beliefs that the mind is a powerful thing. I’m sure Mr. Socrates was trying to prepare Modo for the real world by teaching him never to reveal his true face, but I also felt certain that Octavia could have handled it and cared about him anyway. Although that part could be more of a series teaser than a genuine mistrust on Modo’s part.
I haven’t read a bad steampunk book yet on my Marathon of Books, but The Hunchback Assignments is at the top of my favourite steampunk list. I’d recommend it for early teen readers.
“‘This is for science,’ he explained tenderly. ‘Science. Mother Nature’s design has failed you, but mine will not.'” – Hyde from The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade, page 2
“‘But I remember my past, young sahib. That is why I do not cringe when I see you. Your disfiguration, it is not your true self.'” – Tharpa talking to Modo from The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade, page 31
“The carriage rattled on. Oscar was bewildered: he was a rider both in the carriage and in his own body. No matter how many times he commanded his hands to open the door or his mouth to call out, nothing happened. His heartbeat was regular and he wasn’t sweating; the panic he felt was all in his head.” – Oscar from The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade, page 137
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade , is published by HarperCollins Publishers , (2009).
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The Hunchback Assignments (review)
- Elizabeth Bush
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The hunchback assignments, common sense media reviewers.
Horror mystery is too dark for most kids' tastes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This is a dark story. The young hero, Modo, is a h
Modo and the other agents think they are working f
Adults and children are kidnapped, drugged, held c
This is historical ficiton -- there are references
Parents need to know that there are some mature elements in this dark story: young men murder their fathers; experiments are performed on children and adults. The poor treatment of children may be historically accurate but disturbing to younger readers today. There is no background information that explains why some…
This is a dark story. The young hero, Modo, is a hunchback who is enlisted to work as a spy for a secret agency. He is not operating out of freewill, and his missions may not be wholly good.
Positive Role Models
Modo and the other agents think they are working for the good of London. There are distinctly evil characters at work, but the motives of the Permanent Guild are also questionable, especially their employment of children. There are some stereotypical characterizations of evil Germans.
Violence & Scariness
Adults and children are kidnapped, drugged, held captive, and have metal bolts implanted in them. Captives are enslaved and/or drugged to follow orders, including murdering their fathers.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
This is historical ficiton -- there are references to laudunum and opium. Some children and adults are enslaved by being forced to drink a tincture.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are some mature elements in this dark story: young men murder their fathers; experiments are performed on children and adults. The poor treatment of children may be historically accurate but disturbing to younger readers today. There is no background information that explains why some of the villains are German, and female villains abound. There is some discomfort reading about children fighting evil adults without the magic powers that Harry Potter has available. This falls into the steampunk genre, which has dark story elements and is often, as here, set in the industrial age. This alternative history will be more appealing to older readers with some idea of the real history of the period and the elements being changed.
Where to Read
- Parents say (1)
- Kids say (1)
Based on 1 parent review
this book is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What's the story.
A deformed baby is purchased from a freak show by a mysterious man who raises him with an ulterior motive. Set at the beginning of the 20th century, the orphan boy called Modo has a magical ability to change his features at will. This suits him well as a young spy in a British agency out to stop an evil anarchist society set on domination. Mad scientists and cruel Germans are kidnapping children and drugging wealthy young men to do their evil deeds. Modo befriends a young girl spy, and they rescue each other in the nick of time -- but the battle for control of London is not over.
Is It Any Good?
This is a dark book with elements of horror and much manipulation of children by adults. Older readers into science fiction and steampunk may enjoy this book and the series to follow; younger readers will wish there were some humor and may miss the nuances of this alternative history. There is a young hero and heroine, but much violence against children, especially poor children who are kidnapped and turned surgically into machines and robots.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the history of freak shows and curiosities. Do they exist today? What about at fairs or carnivals?
Why did the superstitions arise about anyone different, for example, someone with physical deformities? Out of fear?
Genetic engineering is going on now -- have scientists always hoped to alter humans? For good or evil? Who will police these efforts?
Is Dr. Hyde's name familiar? What story was the original Dr. Hyde from? How was his mission similar?
Should children be used to fight adult battles such as this one against the Clockwork Guild?
- Author : Arthur Slade
- Genre : Science Fiction
- Book type : Fiction
- Publisher : Wendy Lamb
- Publication date : September 22, 2009
- Publisher's recommended age(s) : 12 - 17
- Number of pages : 288
- Last updated : July 12, 2017
Did we miss something on diversity?
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The Hunchback Assignments
Arthur slade, social sharing.
Modo has spent his entire life training to become a secret agent. He is now 14 years old and his training is complete, so he's transported to the streets of London. There, he uncovers a sinister plot and he must stop the mad scientist behind it before it's too late.
The Hunchback Assignments won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award in 2010.
Read an excerpt | Author interviews
From the book
The large carriage rattled with grotesqueries — bones of cats and pigs strung up as wind chimes, bleached bear skulls dangling from wires, and three shrunken monkey heads mounted on posts. Their glass eyes stared out at the approaching winter. Bells that hung from reins tinkled, warning away wandering spirits. Four horses pulled the carriage, hip bones protruding from their bedraggled flesh, hides scarred by thousands of whippings. Huddled behind them in a thick, worn coat and muffler was a grizzled old man.
From The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade ©2009. Published by HarperCollins.
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Literature / The Hunchback Assignments
Modo, a deformed hunchback , is a baby in gypsy caravan. He is discovered by Mr. Socrates, a highly-placed British intelligence operative, and raised to be one of Socrates' agents. In addition to teaching him tradecraft, martial arts and a well-rounded classification, Modo's training unlocks his innate shapeshifting ability.
Books in the series so far include:
- The Hunchback Assignments (2009)
- The Dark Deeps (2010)
- Empire of Ruins (2011)
- Island of Doom (2012)
Tropes appearing in this series include:
- Action Girl - Captain Monturiol, with Miss Hakkandottir as Dark Action Girl . Octavia and Colette supposedly have combat training , but neither has really displayed any skill thus far.
- Cool Boat - The Ictineo , but also the wooden submarine Filomena .
- Cursed with Awesome - Modo was born with a monstrous physical deformity, but with effort and study can twist his physical features to appear as just about anyone (to date he's only appeared as other men).
- God Guise - Modo is mistaken for the God Face by the Rain People
- Government Agency of Fiction - The Permanent Association, a top secret cabal of highly-placed Britons dedicated to the preservation of the British Empire.
- The Grotesque - Modo.
- Nebulous Evil Organisation - The Clockwork Guild: beyond being a bunch of unethical Mad Scientist types with an army of Mooks and a handful of elite operatives at their command, all that's been revealed so far is their intention to destroy the British Empire.
- Steampunk - Including zeppelins, a Nautilus -esque submarine and underwater city, cybernetic limbs, cyborg dogs , and much more taken from the Verne and Wells toybox.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist - Monturiol, a Captain Ersatz for Verne's Nemo , is presented this way, crippling or sinking ships that threaten her egalitarian undersea paradise of Icaria.
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The Hunchback Assignments Summary and Analysis
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Estimated Read Time : 3 minutes
Word Count: 850
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