In the The Squampkin Patch, author JT Petty lets us know right away that we’re in for something a little odd. In fact, right from the first paragraph of the first section, “To the Reader”:
“Nasselrogt” is pronounced “Nasel Rod.” This is not as difficult as, say, performing dentistry on an unanesthetized bear, or tying your shoe with one hand. But for teachers, waiting-room attendants, roll callers, and countless others, the pronunciation of Nasselrogt was an insurmountable peak.If you are the kind of reader who might skip the “To the Reader” section, your introduction begins with Chapter 1, “Duck in the Pants”:
A rack of trousers, a pair of tanning beds, and their own last name conspired to orphan the Nasselrogt children.As their parents are ignoring them, the kids hide as a joke. When they come out to look for their parents, they are gone. The children end up getting shipped off to the Urchin House, run by Mr. Porifera. When their parents reappear, they can’t find their children, since Mr. Porifera doesn’t recognize the kids’ last name as the parents pronounce it that is, correctly and doesn’t find their files. One of my other favorite quotes is about the Urchin House itself:
After the Great Cheese Grater Fiasco, the Nuked Alaska Ice Cream Debacle, and the Taffy Handkerchief Catastrophe, Milton and Chloe were all out of nannies. So Mr. and Ms. Nasselrogt, despite their busy schedules, had been forced to take their children back-to-school shopping themselves.
The front half was white columns and gables; the back half was gray warehouses and smokestacks. It did not look like the marriage of a factory and an orphanage. It looked like a factory had tried to swallow an orphanage, choked, and died with its mouth full.The children escape and end up at a mysterious house surrounded by a pumpkin patch or so they think. It turns out that patch holds something strange and frightening that is coming to a head on Halloween.
Though the build-up is to Halloween, I wouldn’t want to lose this book the other eleven months of the year. It is definitely suspenseful, sometimes scary and creepy, too. But it is also filled with dark humor and interesting characters. There was one plot point involving a wall and a large zipper that seemed out of place, but fortunately it was early on in the book. The book shows a very strong Lemony Snicket influence in the writing, which should make it a natural pick for lovers of the Unfortunate Events books and that includes a lot of kids.