Book Review 8 – Horton Halfpott
Horton Halfpott works as a kitchen dishwasher in an English manor home in the cruel employment of the Luggertuck’s, a noble English family with an evil mother and son. Horton is tasked with delivering an invite for a ball the Luggertuck’s are hosting to the Shortley’s who just happen to have Celia Sylvan-Smythe staying at their home, daughter of one of the richest families in England. They immediately fall in love with each other, but Horton knowing his place in English society, runs away from her and is ashamed he has spoken to her. All this takes place while various items go missing from the home and the famous detective Portnoy St. Pomfrey comes to investigate. The evil son Luther Luggertuck has devised a devious plan to give the family’s heirloom, The Lump (a supposed diamond worth a tremendous amount brought back from a distant ancestor from the Crusades), to shipless pirates who are to abduct Celia at the ball and promise to marry Luther in order to be set free. His whole plan falls apart when Horton switches Celia for the wretched cook Miss Neversly, the pirates force Luther to walk to plank into a smelly bog, Portnoy and his stable hands catch Luther for stealing the Lump, which turns out to be a worthless rock, and Horton and Celia end up together.
Angleberger, T. (2011). Horton Halfpott or the fiendish mystery of Smugwick Manor or the loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s corset. New York, NY: Amulet Books.
Horton Halfpott starts out well with the mood of the book set by the narrator. The narrator was really the star character of the book. Angleberger channels a proper British gentleman with wit through the narration, pointing out obvious things that once said appear hilarious. He is also opinionated and clearly dislikes the Luggertuck’s and sides with Horton. Throughout the book, the narrator has a clear dislike for any romantic attention, and quickly assures the reader that he will not go into details. “Fear not, Reader, we will not dwell on these romantic inklings.” (Angelberger, 2011, p. 37)
Many of the characters are simple and one-dimensional. Horton and Celia are the only characters that slightly are not. Horton is a rule follower from the beginning, not even taking scraps of food from the garbage as it is against the rules. As the book progresses he begins to loosen up slightly. He visits a library where he is found by the elderly Lord Emberly, who allows him to stay. Horton ends up visiting this room nearly every night and enjoys his time with Emberly. He later skips out on his duties in the kitchen to find a friend, something others find shocking that Horton would break the rules. In the end, he and Celia are in love and she invites him to flee with her back to her house for good whereupon he leaves his place of employment at the Luggertuck’s. Celia is a young girl from a wealthy family, but she treats everyone well that she likes and stands up to cruel people, especially her suitors. She sees the good in people and will talk to even the lowest in society, Horton the kitchen dishwasher.
Luther and M’Lady Luggertuck are the evil villains, cruel to everyone and selfish. They do not grow as people and get what is coming to them. Portney St. Pomfrey is a detective but a bit of a lazy fool who doesn’t appear to deserve his high reputation. The stable boys in the book that work at the manor and are friends with Horton seem like good people and really get into the mystery of the missing Lump, but they also are so minor that they don’t grow as characters either. All the other characters are minor parts that stay the same throughout the story of Horton and Celia.
The manor house is really interesting as it is an old and large house with many rooms, hidden passages and locked rooms. Angleberger uses a classic setting of an old house to tell his mystery. There is a map at the beginning of the book but it truly is not needed. Much of the grounds detailed on the map are barely mentioned and I never felt like I needed to refer to the map to get a sense of where things were taking place as much of it resides within the mansion.
The mystery itself is really a side-story. The mystery is not really detailed and at one point the narrator asks if the reader knows where the lump is hidden. I thought at this point that I had no idea as nothing had been revealed. It was a funny book and I liked the story, but to place it in the mystery category was simply because there was a mystery that drove the drama and tension between Horton and Celia.
When M’Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset, all of
Smugwick Manor feels the effect. Rules that are normally
followed are broken. When the Luggertuck Lump, the
beloved family heirloom, goes missing, the Luggertucks hire
an investigator, Portney St. Pomfrey, to solve the unthinkable
crime. St. Pomfrey is not a good investigator, so he enlists
the help of the stable boys, Bump, Blight, and Blemish.
M’Lady’s son, Luther Luggertuck, is the thief, and he has
framed Horton Halfpott, the hardworking kitchen boy, as
the villain. Horton is taken to jail where he overhears plans
to kidnap Celia. Luckily, Horton manages to escape and
hatches a scheme to ensure Celia’s safety. Luther is exposed
as the thief, Celia and Horton fall in love, and the stable boys
are hired by the investigator. Readers will laugh out loud
while trying to discover who stole the lump in this fun and
Parker, A. E. (2001). Horton Halfpott. Library Media Connection 30(1), p. 63.
This book has a strong and opinionated narrator. It can be used to good effect to show how a narrator of a story can be used in various ways. In the case of Horton Halfpott, the narrator is used as comic relief, similar to a British gentlemen stating obvious things that come across as funny. A librarian wanting to show different styles of narration in books could use this as an example.