Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon is a delightful middle grade full of really cute illustrations with Vernon’s unique style that turns the creepy cute and shows that true friends come in all shapes and sizes! Castle Hangnail really has all the elements that I need in a middle grade including great tongue-in-cheek humor for parents reading with their kids or big kids who just still like whimsy ;-). Even better, the main character is portrayed as being a bit pudgy with illustrations that match that description, so we can empower our girls to know they can be witches no matter what they look like!
Note: I borrowed an advanced copy of Castle Hangnail. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
Published by Dial on April 21st, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 384 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.
- The illustrations in Castle Hangnail are possibly my favorite part. They aren’t just chapter header illustrations, they appear throughout and often capture the best moments of the story! The style is just like the cover and I think my favorite is a donkey with bags tied on his hooves looking rather confused ;-).
- As you can tell from the cover, Castle Hangnail has some fairly spooky things in it, including an animated doll with pins for hair. I’m a complete wuss so I can assure you that Castle Hangnail is not actually spooky at all, and is kind of a great lesson of not judging a books by its cover since Pins the doll is very sweet and a talented tailor!
- You know when you’re watching certain animated movies and there are jokes that are clearly for the parents’ enjoyment since the kids don’t get it? Castle Hangnail has a number of those moments and just generally a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, which I found quite enjoyable :D.
- Molly spends much of Castle Hangnail letting everyone believe she is someone else, but in the end Castle Hangnail has a great message about being true to yourself and who your true friends are. Molly has an experience I think all of us girls can relate to where she realizes someone she thought was a friend was really one of those fake friends that just wants something from you.
- As I mentioned before, Molly is described throughout Castle Hangnail as being a bit pudgy and really just a normal young girl as far as appearances go. The illustrations of her back this up and really make it clear to young readers that Molly is just like them and no matter what you look like, you can be the hero and rescue yourself!
- Castle Hangnail has a couple of pages that are completely black with white text and some illustration (for example to show a night scene). I found it annoying to read and hold the page since it was so stuffed with ink D:.
- There is a lot of capitalization just for the sake of capitalization in Castle Hangnail and at first it was funny since it made things all official, but it got a little annoying eventually.
- Castle Hangnail is pretty darn long for a middle grade book and it ended up feeling like one piece too many for the plot. It’s all about Molly trying to become the resident Wicked Witch of Castle Hangnail, but there were too many extra things in the middle before the big battle. I wish some things had been saved for a second book!
Castle Hangnail is a great read for middle grade readers that like something a little different and a little creepy looking without actually being creepy, haha. I know a lot of adults that will very much enjoy Castle Hangnail both for its art style and because it is just downright fun!
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
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