Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name -- a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck -- it is the only home he has ever known.
But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name -- Arthur, like the good king in the old stories -- and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny.
I absolutely loved everything about this book! I was given this beautiful hard cover edition as a birthday present, and I'm so glad. It's one of those stories that just pulls at your heartstrings, and makes you want the best for Arthur, the books protagonist, an endearing one-eared fox/human who you just want to bundle up and care for.
The Dickensian world Bartok creates for her characters to inhabit is magical and altogether otherworldly, yet filled with light and darkness, kindness and cruelty, much like our own. It’s brimming with interesting characters, some of whom you love to hate, like the horrible Miss Carbunkle, and others who you’d like to visit for a cup of tea and a chat. The tale is wholly heartwarming and touches on what it means to belong and how to live, not just survive. But I think most of all, it teaches us that great things can happen if we have but a little courage.
Bartok’s writing flows, and it’s beautiful, as are the illustrations throughout the book. It’s a lovely world, with a lovely little character who you sincerely wish was real.
On another note, I have heard they are making this into a motion picture. I cannot wait to see this realised on the big screen!