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The Unfortunate Son

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  298 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Kidnapping, family secrets, and adventure on the high seas--perfect for middle grade fans of historical fiction!

What does it mean to be lucky? Luc doesn't really know. He was born with just one ear, his father constantly berates him, and his younger brother is already bigger and stronger than he is. But when he is chosen to become an apprentice to a local fisherman, his l
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 14th 2012 by Viking Books for Young Readers
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Wonder by R.J. PalacioThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenLiar & Spy by Rebecca SteadThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Newbery 2013
49th out of 113 books — 1,226 voters
Secrets of the Realm by Bev StoutThe Beast of Cretacea by Todd StrasserThe True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AviThe Assiduous Quest of Tobias Hopkins by James FaroThe Assiduous Quest of Tobias Hopkins by James Faro
Seafaring Middle Graders
51st out of 73 books — 44 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Barb Middleton
Sep 24, 2012 Barb Middleton rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
If you want to see a masterful creation of a historical setting with details galore, this book is a must. From describing how olives are harvested to making blood sausage to stitching a serious facial wound, Constant Leeds weaves nonfiction details throughout this book that are brilliant, fascinating and informative. She also does a stunning job presenting another culture in the 16th century. The message of tolerance between Muslims and Christians is one that I do not often see in children's ...more
I enjoyed this book, but I was dissatisfied with parts of it. Several times, the dialogue pulled me out of the story because it seemed too modern for the Middle Ages. Does the phrase, "Bloom where you are planted" date back this far? The cover is unfortunate-- implying that it's a pirate adventure, which it isn't. The blurb indicates this is a middle grade novel, but repeated references to bastards and eunuchs, historical references without context, and the romance storyline move it more toward ...more
The Rusty Key
Mar 04, 2013 The Rusty Key rated it liked it
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Both boys and girls, ages 10 to 14, approximately, though demographic is easily this novel’s greatest problem, see review for further thoughts on that subject.

One Word Summary: Equable.

The Unfortunate Son falls into a noble, if underappreciated genre of children’s books: those that kids will only love when reread years later as an adult. Richly described, thoughtful, heartfelt and nuanced, there is just absolutely no way this book i
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.

What a strange little story. The premise is odd enough for a children's book: historical fiction set in 16th Century France; a story about questionable parentage, kidnapping, the differences between Western culture and Northern African culture - it's all very unusual. I enjoy historical fiction, especially when it covers periods and topics in history that are not among the tired and well-trod (see the stuff by Karen Cushman). And, while this
Kim McGee
Jun 17, 2012 Kim McGee rated it really liked it
Luc was born into nobility but as luck would have it, he was born with only one ear to a count that despised imperfection. Because of his missing ear he is given to the family of an olive grower and their son took the place of the count's dead infant son. His new family is not very kind to him so he decides to join an old fisherman,the fisherman's sister and their young ward Beatrice and become a fisherman. Beatrice and Luc become friends and are devoted to one another until luck again messes ...more
Sep 19, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it
In judging this by its cover, I didn't want to read it. I expected something swashbuckly, lots of holding-the-knife-in-his-teeth, followed by lots of honor and justice, ad nauseum. But actually I enjoyed this very much and read it in one sitting. The fifteenth-century France and Tunisian settings are lovely, and the characters--especially the middle-aged brother and sister coastal French fishermen--are all charming. The over-the-top elements of cruel nobility that are sort of Princess Bridesque ...more
Aug 15, 2013 Anna rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Beautifully told, beautifully written, endearing and uncannily real setting and characters. It's the kind of story that makes you squeeze your eyes shut and well with tears at the same time for the beauty of it. The leaves aren't just orange, but burning remnants of summer. And sweet potatoes aren't just food to eat and fill you up, but burnished, hot and sweet, with wrinkly skin. It's the kind of book that makes everything a poem. I love those kind the best. I stepped into this ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Shazzer rated it really liked it
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Erin Reilly-Sanders
This one is pretty enjoyable but at the same time, it seems to be lacking something important as well. It's a bit more of a historical adventure than historical fiction, perhaps along the lines of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, making it an enjoyable story but leaving lots of questions as to the historical realism parts. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is definitely an adventure tale as well, but somehow seems seeped in recognizable historical setting and events even if ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emmet O'Neal Library- Children's Department
Although the consensus seems to be that a more fitting title would be The Unfortunate Cover, don’t let the front of the book prevent you from reading it. It. Is. Awesome.

Luc seems like the unluckiest guy of the century (16th century, that is). Born with one ear to a count who doesn’t want him, he grows up in an olive grove thinking the drunk, hateful man raising him is his real father. When he is apprenticed to an old fisherman named Pons and lives with Pons, his sister Mattie, and their beautif
V.K. Finnish
Oct 13, 2013 V.K. Finnish rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I give 3 stars to books I enjoyed while reading, but feel like I got everything out of it in one read.

The Unfortunate Son follows the stories of fifteen-year-old Luc and of fifteen-year-old Beatrice as they meet in their 15th century French village, become separated, and strive to be reunited.

Luc is known as "the boy with one ear", and though, some see him as nothing but a freak, he is welcomed into the home of an old fisherman and his sister and their beautiful adopted daughter Beatrice. There,
Ms. Yingling
Nov 07, 2012 Ms. Yingling rated it liked it
Luc was born with only one ear in 16th century France, and his father is very displeased with him. Instead of working in the family olive groves, he decides to help out Pons and Mattie, an older brother and sister team who are raising a young noblelady, Beatrice, after the violent death of her father at the hands of a lord. The little make shift family does well for a time, until Pons and Luc are attacked by pirates while out fishing. While Pons survives, the news of Luc's disappearance is taken ...more
Melissa Mcavoy
Well I feel like a curmudgeon, but found this book seriously lacking. No doubt it is an enjoyable tale, with adventure, homey details and a shimmer of romance. What I object to is how entirely unrealistic, sanitized and predictable it is. The noble birthed but victimized children are beautiful and clever, noble and good. The peasant side kicks are warm hearted and generous, and of course love, revere, respect and serve the noble wronged children. It is very Disneyesque in that one can tell from ...more
Luc has not been fortunate in his short life...born the son of royalty (although he does not know it) he is banished from the castle by his evil father, The Count. As an infant, he goes to live with Blanche and Pascal and their sons. Pascal treats him poorly and so, Luc decides to become apprenticed to Pons, a fisherman and lives with him, Pon's sister Mattie, and beautiful Beatrice. Luc is beginning to feel loved and welcomed at their home and things are finally looking up for him. He seems to ...more
Sep 05, 2012 Claire rated it liked it
Recommends it for: 10 and up- boys and girls
Luc is extremely special- He is beautiful, smart and although he can hear exceptionally well, he is born with one ear. This imperfection is his doom. His noble born father is obsessed with perfection so the Boy must Go.

He is traded with Louis, the comely son of Pascal who is awarded a olive farm far away to raise Luc. Pascal is angry and ungrateful and treats Luc badly. Luc finds acceptance, a home and a vocation in the magical home of young Beatrice, also a victim of and hiding from the Count d
A perfect baby boy is born to the Count de Muguet--perfect except for the fact that he only has one ear. The Count, fearful of and disgusted by any type of physical abnormality, arranges a scheme that has far-reaching consequences. The baby is raised by his wet nurse, far from the castle, as the eldest son of an olive grower. Facing cruelty by the man he has always believed to be his father, Luc finds work and a home with fisherman Pons, his sister Mattie, and the beautiful Beatrice, daughter of ...more
Mar 17, 2013 Allison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, childrens
This was wonderful. The writing is top-notch. The historical setting is meticulously researched, and Leeds gives the reader an interesting look into 15th century France. But it's not an exciting swashbuckling tale, as the kidnapped-by-pirates part might suggest. He doesn't even get kidnapped until almost 100 pages in. That's not to say that it's boring. There's a little bit of a mystery involving Luc's parentage, there's the hope/effort to reunite Luc with his adopted fisherman family, there's ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Sara rated it liked it
Interesting and unusual setting. I thought in the portrayal of North Africa, the book managed to maintain a fairy tale quality and include colorful details and characters, without crossing into offensive stereotyping. I also loved the descriptions of food in this book!

The characterization felt just a bit flat. The problem could be that, in spite of the various, serious misfortunes of which the plot consists, the main characters were excessively awesome - the smartest, the most beautiful, the ki
Aug 03, 2016 LuAnn rated it liked it
Wow, what adventures the one-eared boy Luc has, from being a despised son, a fisherman’s apprentice, a Saracen captive to a Moorish slave. Most of the main characters are picturesque and enjoyable, though few secondary characters are despicable. I agree with others that the presentation of life in Tunis is the most interesting part. While the dialogue and teasing are amusing, I doubt they suit the time period and the other protagonist Beatrice’s defiant attitude and her guardian Mattie's carved ...more
Miss Amanda
gr 5-9 302 pgs

1486-1502, France / Tunisia. The story follows two children Beatrice and Luc both with mysterious pasts. Beatrice's father died a dishonored knight leaving her nurse and her nurse's brother to raise her in a small fishing village. Luc, born with only one ear, is despised by his father for some unknown reason. When Luc is apprenticed to Beatrice's "uncle" the two become friends. When Luc is kidnapped and sold into slavery, Beatrice and her family are heartbroken and are determined t
Kell Andrews
Jul 29, 2013 Kell Andrews rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book, but it's been mismarketed as middle-grade, down to the cover and misleading tagline. Based on content and the age of the characters (ages 15 through 17 or 18), it should be YA, and the literary voice was more adult. It's unfortunate that any historical fiction, especially with a male protagonist, can't be published as YA, because this one deserves a wider readership. The writing was gorgeous, details well-researched, setting fresh, characters compelling. The only ...more
Jan 17, 2013 Cathy rated it liked it
My quest to read the best of the best of children's literature from 2012 continues as I look forward to the Newbery award announcement this month. However, I think the more I read, the pickier I get. The Unfortunate Son actually a pretty good book and I think most middle grade readers would like it if they stuck with it. I've been to Spain and Morocco, so the setting of this book (wherever it was exactly) was quite enjoyable for me. I enjoyed some of the characters, and the plot certainly took ...more
Yasmina Walker
Mar 06, 2016 Yasmina Walker rated it liked it
The Unfortunate Son, a young adult novel, by Constance Leeds is a great introduction to life in 16th century France. When Luc the son of Count de Muguet was born there were high hopes for his future until a birth defect is discovered. The Count, a wicked man, disowns his son. Luc not knowing any of this, grows up in a farmer's household not loved by "his father". Realizing that "his father" would never be pleased with him, he apprentices himself to a fisherman named Pons. This is where the ...more
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
Sep 18, 2012 IndyPL Kids Book Blog rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure
Luc works hard, even though he’s just a boy. His father is constantly complaining about him and finding more and more work for him to do. He never has enough to eat. When a local fisherman named Pons wants to take him on as an apprentice the offer includes living with the fisherman and his sister in the village. Luc can’t believe it when his father lets him go.

Luc feels like his luck has suddenly turned…until the day Pons’ boat is overtaken by pirates and Luc is taken captive and sold into slave
Sep 27, 2012 Conkristador rated it liked it
After a class discussion about this book, I now realize it does fit the parameters of a teen historical fiction romance novel. This still does not mean that I actually enjoyed reading it. The book had so much potential at first! Young adults trying to survive in a cool time period despite murdered families and deformities seemed a recipe for success. As the slow plot inched forward, I felt like the author was too intent on making this a youth novel. His tone seemed condenscending as darker ...more
Rita Bailey
May 26, 2014 Rita Bailey rated it liked it
This is a well-written historical fiction for middle grade readers. The characters have depth and engage our sympathy. Luc, the smallest in the family and born with only one ear, is picked on by his father. He solves the problem by running away and finds happiness working with an old fisherman--until he is captured by pirates. The settings--sixteenth century France and exotic Tunisia--are rendered in colourful detail.

The characters, however, are never really masters of their own fate. Their liv
Nicole Palumbo Davies
Oct 11, 2013 Nicole Palumbo Davies rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
The misleading cover promises a pirate adventure - I was expecting something like Treasure Island (which wouldn't have been a bad thing). But this was a slow-building story with complex characters (and unlike Treasure Island, some of those characters were female). The subjects - French fisherman and slavery in Northern Africa in the year 1500 - were unusual for middle school historical fiction. I do wish the ending didn't seem so rushed and unresolved. I wonder if Constance Leeds was planning a ...more
Oct 24, 2012 Ryan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Katherine
The best part about books like this are the descriptions of daily life. Luc's personal problems - only one ear, troubles with his father - fade to the background with descriptions of harvesting olives, pressing oil, fishing. After he is kidnapped by pirates, there are descriptions of life as a slave - a privileged slave, learning to read, about medicine and so forth, but a slave nonetheless. The book reminded me of Farmer Boy, the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband, Almanzo, growing up in ...more
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