Time for another audio review! This one is a mystery with a little horror, a little comedy, and a lot of action adventure! It’s also the first book in a trilogy that promises to be a mix of A Series of Unfortunate Events and 39 Clues, with a sprinkling of The Little Princess, Charlie Bone, and Peppermints in the Parlor mixed in. (If you don’t know any of those titles, check one or all of them out at the library as well!)
* * *
Anastasia McCrumpet is a perfectly ordinary 11 year old girl with almost ordinary parents. (Mr. McCrumpet is pretty ordinary, though obsessed with plants; when they die, he holds funerals. Mrs. McCrumpet is…not so ordinary. But perhaps not in a good way.) Anastasia loves both her parents, which is why she’s so upset when two great-aunts she never met show up at school to take her to their home, while her parents recover from a freak vacuum-cleaning accident at St. Shirley’s Hospital for the Seriously Mangled. Auntie Prim and Auntie Prude whisk her away in their second-hand hearse without even a trip home for clothing or supplies.
Anastasia has serious qualms when she finds out the aunties live in in a Victorian mansion…or, to be absolutely correct, a former Victorian lunatic asylum–St. Agony’s Asylum for the Deranged, Despotic, Demented, and Otherwise Undesirable (That is to Say, Criminally Insane). Not only is the Asylum at the end of a deserted road and surrounded by a high iron fence, it’s also guarded by ferocious attack poodles, and has no electricity. Aunt Prim and Aunt Prude, although they seem to be very sweet, lock her in her room every night, and she has to eat Mystery Lumps for breakfast, lunch and dinner…when she gets the last two meals. Keeping a child is expensive, the aunties tell her, so she has to make some allowances. And then the aunties tell her she has to live with them forever, as her parents are as dead as dormice.
Now an orphan, Anastasia is sunk in despair…but not so sunk that she doesn’t start wondering what is going on around her. Isn’t it peculiar that the aunties have the same ring as the evil school secretary back at home? Is the deranged teenage gardener with the silver cage on his head really chasing her, or is he only trying to talk to her? And what is making that eerie EeeeooooEeeooooo sound in the night?
When Anastasia starts exploring St. Agony’s she finds secret rooms, hidden dumbwaiters and disguised speaking tubes, which lead to even more mysteries. Why are there clippings of missing children in an empty desk? Who are the strange women with uni-brows in the portrait hall, and why do some of them look familiar? Most importantly, who are the deranged gardener and the boy trapped behind a mirror? Eavesdropping might not be polite, but what can she learn from listening to the aunties secret discussions? When Anastasia finds and reunites brothers Ollie and Quentin, both prisoners in separate areas of St. Agony’s, the three of them decide to work together. Can the newly-named League of Beastly Dreadfuls find out what Prim and Prude are up to and escape the dire fate the two have in mind for them?
The League of Beastly Dreadfuls is one of those stories that is funny while it’s at its most perilous. Anastasia takes everything coming at her with the utmost seriousness, even when a reader (or listener) knows that things are probably not exactly what they seem…
The sound recording of The League of Beastly Dreadfuls is absolutely wonderful! It’s funny, scary and suspenseful, all in turns. The reader, Rosalyn Landor, has a beautiful British accent, and her character voices are distinctive and perfectly narrated. If you do listen to the sound recording, make sure to check out the print copy of the book as well; the illustrations by Josie Portillo are quirky and a wonderful addition to the text.
I highly recommend The League of Beastly Dreadfuls for kids in third through sixth grades to read; for listening, I think it would be accessible to kids ages 7 to 14; older teens and adults would enjoy it for the storytelling. Like the Series of Unfortunate Events, much of the humor is in the way the characters don’t recognize that their world is not quite as it seems to be…but the reader (or listener) can see what the characters might not.
Book Two in The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, The Dastardly Deed, came out this spring. I haven’t read it yet, but I am looking forward to it! If you would like other books or recordings that are similar to The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, try Caroline Carlson’s The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series, or The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series by Jordan Stratford. As well as A Series of Unfortunate Events.
* * *
As always, if you would like a personal recommendation or need help finding something to read or listen to, ask one of our librarians for assistance. We’re always happy to help you find the perfect thing to read!