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Figgs & Phantoms

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  844 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
Mona has the most unusual family in town-and the most notorious. While she hates all the attention her eccentric relatives bring to her, there is one Figg family member she likes: her uncle Florence, the book dealer. But Uncle Florence keeps hinting that he's going to find his way to Capri, the Figg family heaven. And that means leaving Mona behind. Can Mona find Capri bef ...more
ebook, 176 pages
Published January 1st 2011 by Puffin Books (first published 1974)
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Jan 26, 2010 evelyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book many many times and have the ampersand from it tattooed on my wrist. Yet somehow I never realized how terrifying this book is. Also, there is truly no other book quite like this. Amazing.
I wish Raskin hadn't bothered with the silly names "Figgs" and "Newtons." It detracts from the story, which is very profound, bordering on the philosophical--about a girl's coming to terms with the death of her favorite uncle. Raskin's fond of making little inside jokes and puns on pop culture, but most of the pop culture references are sadly outdated. There are allusions to songs that were on the "Hit Parade" in the 1930s and 1940s and laudatory references to the works of Joseph Conrad -- not t ...more
To say that I really like Ellen Raskin’s "The Westing Game" is an understatement. I adore that book. So when I got copies of two other Raskin books ("The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)" and "Figgs and Phantoms") in a giveaway, I had great expectations…and while these other books exhibit her signature style (and illustrations), they are not in the same league.

While she lives in an eccentric world, Mona, daughter of Sister Figg Newton and Newton “Newt” Newton still deals with pread
Matt Youngbauer
May 14, 2013 Matt Youngbauer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: looking-glass
Some critics have called it her masterpiece, yet there are reasons why it is less fondly remembered. A quick search of Goodreads shows readers who love it, hate it, and just think its weird. Much less accessible than her other mysteries, "Figgs and Phantoms" is a dark book that examines a lonely girls searching for a reason to live. A curious protagonist, Mona Figg is the youngest member of the extended Figg family, an eccentric group of former circus performers, book collectors, car salesmen, t ...more
Aug 10, 2010 Ashley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, newbery-honors, blog
This book was originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.

Figgs and Phantoms by Ellen Raskin won the Nebery Honor in 1975. Four years later, she won the Newbery Award for The Westing Game. I read The Westing Game several years ago, and I really enjoyed it. It was wonderfully complex and the characters were simply delightful. (More on that later). So, I was actually quite excited to read Figgs and Phantoms.

Alas... Figgs just didn't work for me.. It was quite the disappoin
Mar 17, 2012 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newberry-s
I was interested in reading more of Raskin's books after reading The Westing Game and after reading reviews of other books my boys and I have been reading where people made comparisons to Raskin. I loved the first half--super quirky, weird characters (the main character's name is Mona Lisa Figg Newton. You gotta love that!) She comes from a crazy family of Vaudeville performers, every one with their own crazy names, quirks, and place in the community. There are all sorts of mysteries about all o ...more
Oct 21, 2008 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Figgs & Phantoms was and wasn't what I expected. I thought it would be quirky and funny, and it was. I didn't expect it to mention pornography or have a discussion about the highly-charged "N"-word. (And Raskin doesn't abbreviate it. However, the context is the main character's horror of it being used in the title of a Joseph Conrad novel.)

The book was whimsical and zany, but it managed to be more complex and grown-up than I expected--both silly and smart.

I also loved the typography. There a
Nov 28, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: written-by-women
The positive: Funny and heartbreaking and meaningful. Seeing the good and the bad in your family instead of only one or the other, understanding the naturalness of death, forgiving the people who've accidentally (and unknowingly) caused you pain.

The negative: The second half is most people's least favorite, because it is in some ways a departure from what came before. I loved it, though.

The summary: I love Ellen Raskin. In both this and The Westing Game, she gives so much respect and depth to he
Jul 22, 2008 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love books and children's mysteries
I don't know. This was disappointing. I think of The Westing Game as a masterpiece and because this novel was published several years earlier, perhaps Raskin just hadn't really achieved full maturity as a writer yet.

I want to reread it as the beginning was very boring to me and I think I missed some important plot points, but the story was brimming with so many interesting ideas about books and what exactly they mean to different people (is it an escape? is it a business venture?) that just were
William Leight
The prejudice that holds that a book cannot be worthwhile unless it treats of serious and realistic subjects in a serious and realistic fashion is thankfully on the wane these days, though it remains powerful: don't hold your breath for Neil Gaiman's next novel to be shortlisted for the Pulitzer or the Booker. Still, genre fiction has come a long way, so the next step is, I feel, for the literary merit of children’s books to be more widely recognized. While some children’s books (I refer here to ...more
Greg Kerestan
Jan 26, 2016 Greg Kerestan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone remembers the first time a book blew their mind. When I was in fifth grade, this one went BOOM inside my head and completely changed my tastes in literature. This is like "Twin Peaks" as a YA novel- eccentric family members, surrealistic mindflights, skewed nostalgia and deep philosophical musings in a small town full of quirky bystanders. When you read this book as a kid, you'll like it, but you won't get it. The "mystery" Raskin promises in the prologue is never entirely addressed or ...more
Mar 10, 2014 Jada rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be...strange.
I've read two of Ellen Raskin's other juvenile fiction books: The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues and one of my all-time favorite books, The Westing Game. I was expecting this book to be kind of like wasn't.
This book is about a girl named Mona Newton who has a slightly crazy, definitely odd, former showbiz family. Her mother was a Figg--yes, they're Figgs and Newtons--and her family believes in an island called Capri, wh
Apr 10, 2009 Collette rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juv-and-ya
And interesting novel in terms of its time period: it seems that Raskin was influenced by 70s psychedelia. I felt like the search for "Capri" was one long acid trip.

They mystery in this novel was very shallow...I kept looking for clues and was waiting for the solution to be revealed.

And as one reviewer pointed out, this book was not very funny. It seems somewhat incomplete, as though it was a first draft.
1975 Newbery Honor Book

After reading this book, I am really not sure what to make of this book. It has so much going on in it that at times I found myself back tracking to try to make sense of it.

The main character is Mona who only really gets along with her uncle Florence. Mona is part of the Figg family, an eccentric family who used to perform in vaudeville and has a bit of a reputation in Pineapple. The Figg family also has a belief about a place called Capri, which they believe to be the aft
Apr 20, 2010 Susann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
It's no The Westing Game (5 stars!), but any Raskin is worth a read. Mona's grief is real and sad and scary. The "dream" sequence in the second half of the book is a little much for me, but I can see how it would appeal to others.
Talking about Joseph Conrad made me remember this book. Run and get it for your child (or you) immediately. I think Wes Anderson had to have read these. All Ellen Raskin's books are beyond brilliant.
Aug 22, 2016 Misti rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mona's family doesn't believe in heaven, they believe in Capri. Not the real-world island off the coast of Italy, but a paradise specific to their family. When Mona's favorite uncle "goes to Capri," she's determined to follow him there -- but can she find the way?

This is a truly weird little book, and not in a good way. I felt off-balance all the way through, due to the unlikable main character, the intentional absurdity of the details, and the extended dream sequence at the climax. This book wa
Teresa Osgood
I remember enjoying The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) when I was younger, so I thought the shorter Figgs and Phantoms might be a good introduction to the Raskin canon for my 8-year-old. I was wrong. The cheery cover belies the moody-teenagerness of the main character. Her cousin's blatant interest in pornography doesn't deserve its few mentions. The Figg family is certainly full of characters, but on the whole, this story is just weird. Now I'm afraid to rer ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Josiah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well now, this certainly is something different. Author Ellen Raskin has been known for decades as someone willing to tinker a little bit with the standard novel structure, telling her stories in ways that don't always stick to conventional print techniques. Her greatest triumph in this vein was probably The Westing Game, winner of the 1979 Newbery Medal, but Figgs & Phantoms has its moments of innovative storytelling that clearly mark Ellen Raskin as the intelligent writer that she was.

Dec 23, 2011 Treasure rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-books
A reissue of the 1974 Newbery Honor winner, Figgs and Phantoms tells the story (dubbed “a mysterious romance or a romantic mystery”) of Mona Lisa Figg Newton, a misfit living in fictional Pineapple, with her crazy family, both the Figgs and the Newtons. The only person she feels that understands her is her Uncle Florence (Italy, of course). But when he suddenly departs for what the family believes to be their afterlife on a place called Capri. Florence is determined to find him and goes on a jou ...more
Mona Newton's life is a trying one: she's constantly embarrassed by her flamboyant family, the Figgs, and really only connects with her uncle Florence. Together they form the Figg-Newton Giant, who appears once a month to steal books from the top shelf of Ebenezer Bargain's book store, and then walk slowly back to Newton "Newt" Newton (aka "Dad")'s used car lot.

The Figg family follows a strange religion, one based on finding a mysterious island, Capri (not the one we all know). Several of the F
Mona Lisa Figg-Newton comes from a bizarre, circus-like family who live in the town of Pineapple. Surly Mona hates the attention her family attracts, but loves her uncle Florence the book dealer fiercely. When Uncle Florence dies, Mona has to find Capri, the heaven of her family's self-created religion, in order to find Uncle Florence and ultimately let him go. This was shelved in the children's mystery section of my library but doesn't follow the pattern of any conventional mystery. The mystery ...more
Dec 20, 2013 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is supposed to be a children's book, but it is really spooky and strange. The "funny" names that the characters were given would probably not be understood by children. It has a boy who's into pornography, and the author seems to think that's okay. The main character and her uncle are kind of dishonest. And then after the uncle dies, Mona has a dream or near-death experience that is totally weird. I have no idea what the object was in this book. Maybe the author was trying to tell children ...more
Jan 16, 2011 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-honor
For some reason, although I was able to forgive The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) for not being The Westing Game, and forgive The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues for not being either of those, and loved all three, I was never able to forgive this one for not being any of the above--I never tried to read more than the jacket flap. I can recognize this as a good, Newbery-Honor-worthy book without... actually liking it all that much. It doesn't have the likeable, intriguing charact ...more
This novel is about a young girl who is in a well known family that she hates. Her only friend is her uncle who hints at the fact that he will go "Capri" which really means he is going to die. Mona, the main character struggles with alienating herself from everyone and needs to find her uncle. In this journey she finds out what "Capri" really is and what death is.
This is a sad story but sheds a light on death. This book introduces young children to old age and death. In this book "death is a na
Jun 01, 2014 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
weird, and I almost put it down because it seemed so bizarre. But I got through it and did enjoy the story and the message. It was hard to keep all the names of the characters straight in my mind, but once the family did the Capri chant, I enjoyed the story much more after that point.
Anna Rose
This book chronicles a young girl growing up in a strange family. Raskin has a great ability to spin tales, and this novel is no exception. It is not quite as good as "The Westing Game" but manages to be fun and touching at the same time.
She's written far better. It just didn't make sense, quite often. But I did like the characters, and it was a nice zany family dynamic. The plot just got a little lost in all the wackiness.
Aug 13, 2014 M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bit outdated, humorous in parts and one sequence was very Alice in Wonderland meets James and the Giant interesting take on a fictional character dealing with the death of a beloved uncle.
Chelsea Couillard-Smith
An odd book, but a strangely good one. Mona Lisa Newton hates her freaky family. The Figg-Newton clan has a reputation as being over the top yet they remain blissfully ignorant of their weirdness. All Mona wants is to spend time with her sensitive, book collecting Uncle Flo, yet she lives in constant fear of losing him. Mona is a very authentic character, an awkward, self-conscious adolescent who is so wrapped up in her own perceived weirdness that her life is passing her by. I loved the role th ...more
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Ellen Raskin was a writer, illustrator, and designer. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She primarily wrote for children. She received the 1979 Newbery Medal for her 1978 book, The Westing Game.

Ms. Raskin was also an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dozens of dust jackets for books, including the first edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic A W
More about Ellen Raskin...

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