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The Kneebone Boy

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,986 Ratings  ·  530 Reviews
Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who's away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where, according to legend, a monstrous half-beast boy roams the woods. ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 20th 2011 by Square Fish (first published September 14th 2010)
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Nomiroku Sure. As long as it's not a stupid teenager. Other then that, if you can understand this book, then yeah. I did.

Community Reviews

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Lola  Reviewer
Just another middle grade story. Nothing more, nothing less.
Destinee Sutton
It's clever, funny, dark, and touching. It's Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl and dare I say a touch of the ol' J.K. And it's over too soon! The Kneebone Boy straight charmed the crap out of me. I wanted it to be longer, or at least be the start of a series, but I believe it's just an awesome little standalone gem I'll have to reread soon and often.

This is the story of the three Hardscrabble siblings: Otto, Lucia, and Max. These kids are outcasts in their hometown of Little Tunks because their moth
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I absolutely loved at least 90% of this book. It starts off very strongly, with Lemony narration, quirky characters, and wonderfully strange things happening. And most of the book continues in the weird footsteps of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Fortunately for me, who loved those books. I even ended up liking the gimmick of the narration: the story is being written by one of the three Hardscrabble children. Which one? That's left for the reader to guess. Initially, I thought this would become ...more
"There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone. It was the most uninteresting town imaginable, except for the fact that the Such Fun Chewing Gum factory was on its west end, so that the air almost smelled of peppermint. When the win ...more
This novel is a wonderful, querky, witty and refreshing novel ! It's all the more brilliant that it deals with the serious themes that are abandonment, perception of one's self and others and one's acceptance of another's difference and flaws, no matter how great those may be.

But then, I've always been one to agree with the idea that the best tragedies are always comical and the best comedies are the ones with a strong tragic angle to them. Ellen Potter takes us exactly in this grey zone and sh
Peter D. Sieruta

I probably never would have picked up THE KNEEBONE BOY on my own accord. I hate the cover with its awful staring kids (I thought of them as Wednesday, Pugsley, and Cousin It) and am not at all fond of books where characters have last names like “Hardscrabble.” Well, it’s okay when Dickens does it, but otherwise I find it a rather arch and lemony (if you know what I mean) device that almost always signals a parody and makes me think I shouldn’t take the book too
Nov 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shannon Messenger
If you're a fan of Roald Dahl or Lemony Snickett you will love this book. I love eccentric characters, and when stories have narrators who talk to the reader--but only when it's well done. And Ellen Potter does it very well. The writing is witty, mysterious, and unique and makes me want to track down Potter's other books to give them a try. She's definitely made me a fan.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 7up, 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barb Middleton
Unbelievable. I wrote a clever intro to this review on the church bulletin (during the sermon, shh...), then sang in the choir during the offering, only to forget about my cleverly written thingamajig on the bulletin and tossing it, unthinkingly, into the recycle bin. Alas, my lost masterpiece is enroute to some recycling plant in Taiwan. Ironically, the intro was regarding how I can forget my original web searches through hyperlinking too many times. Hyperlinking, went the other intro, can lead ...more
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want a taste of childhood
Recommended to Ignya by: The most captivating cover in the history of covers
Is it wrong to be literally six feet under in love with a character that is two years younger than you?

Is it?

Please tell me that it’s not, because I might die. I will die a horrendously cruel death by drowning myself in my own big, fat, salty tears. And it’s almost Valentine’s Day too people! Not cool! Don’t crush my dreams!

Okay, I’m just kidding. Kinda, sorta, not really.

The Kneebone Boy is one of the best character driven books that I have read in a long time! Though the plot was quite weak
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m afraid I don’t know how to review this book without gushing, but I will do my best.

The Hardscrabble family is shunned in their small town for several reasons. Partly it’s because their mother disappeared suddenly and suspiciously. Her body was never found. Partly, it’s because all three of the children are a little odd and unusual. Their father creates portraits of royals who have lost their throne, traveling around the world. When he is gone, he leaves them with Mrs. Carnival, but then he m
In The Kneebone Boy, the Hardscrabble children live in a small England town where everyone has avoided them like the plague since their mother disappeared. One reason the villagers avoid them is because rumor has it that one day Otto strangled his mom in a fit of rage. I suspect another reason is because the children aren’t all that friendly. One day the youngest Max invites a girl home. Lucia demands to know who she is. Lucia keeps pressing Brenda with questions until finally Lucia denounces ev ...more
Elisha Condie
Picked up at the library, completely judging it by its cover. People say not to do that, but I think we all should totally do that. It works out most of the time.

The first half of this book, I was completely enchanted. It's clever. It's weird. It's funny. That's everything I'm looking for. I loved Potter's writing style - it's very familiar, and she has that gift of saying everything you need to know and making it funny, yet brief. It's a gift.

The Hardscrabble siblings don't fit in in their
Nov 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laurie and Matthew
I'm not at all familiar with this nouveau-Gothic/British or whatever kind of writing; I haven't read any Lemony Snicket etc. But I thought this book was hugely enjoyable and very well-done, and oh, such a satisfying conclusion. Some say it isn't convincingly British; I read those reviews and thought "well, it isn't convincingly stereotypically British, no".

There's a little bit of Dahl-ish vulgarity here and there that I wasn't enthusiastic about, because I am prudish about these things, but it
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the last book I picked up for its beautiful cover art (Lisa Mantchev's Perchance to Dream) was a winner, so I took a chance again on this one. I'm glad I did. The quirkiness of the plot and writing style is highly reminiscent of Lemony Snickett, but unlike his books, this one didn't leave me frustrated and wanting to gouge the author's eyes out with a spoon. I don't quite know how to classify this book--while reading it I kept thinking ...more
How do you classify this one? It's not fantasy, there's no magical realism, and it's not realistic fiction, but there's probably enough suspense and mystery to appeal to a good number of middle schoolers. The darkness and snarky dialogue will appeal to young readers, who will also enjoy delving into the strange new world of Snoring-by-the-Sea and the castle folly.

That said, as a more mature reader, I found the ending to be an easy out, of sorts. It was an all too tidy wrap-up for a storyline tha
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kidlit
This book was very different. I hate to talk about it, almost, because I don't want to spoil anything. It went to some unusual places, physically and emotionally, and had some twists that I never in a million years would have seen coming.
Asbah Shah
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Keinana Shah
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-books
I gave it 3.5 because it was super cute! I loved it!!! >_<
C.J. Milbrandt
Thanks to a simple misunderstanding, the three Hardscrabble children are sent to stay with an aunt while their father's out of town ... only to discover their aunt's away. So Otto, Lucia, and Max have to fend for themselves. Misfits and whispers. Curiosities and courage. Sketches and secrets.

When I picked up the book, I was under the impression it would have more of a paranormal/supernatural angle. While it has its share of quirks, the story actually meanders unhurriedly through slice-of-life t
The Rusty Key
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Ages 11 and Up for themes of family trauma and implications of violence.

One Word Summary: Unsettling.

Superbly written with smart charm, thoroughly rounded and loveable main characters, and a winning narrative device, ‘The Kneebone Boy’ stands as the best book I ever didn’t like. Up until the last twenty pages or so, the one word I would have picked for my ‘one word summary’ was ‘Beguiling’. But as I closed out those last few pages
Ellen Potter's The Kneebone Boy is a children's book set in the town of Little Tunks (there is no Big Tunks), England, starring the three Hardscrabble children: the oldest, Otto, who everyone believes murdered his mother but since he is mute and the body never turned up, no one can be for certain; the middle child, Lucia (pronounced Lu-CHEE-ah and don't you forget it!) who loves to flare her nostrils indignantly and considers life in Little Tunks boring as she never goes on any grand adventures; ...more
Sweet on Books
This story has a sardonic, mischievous edge that sets it apart. There are none of the typical outlandish characters we see these days – no vampires, reality stars or actual murderers - but there are strange and unexpected elements throughout. Potter gives the hint of something unusual on every page. The narrator, one of the three siblings (although they won't say which one) speaks directly to the reader with honesty and an element of humor. The language can be somewhat sophisticated and there ma ...more
Jodi Lamm
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I adored The Kneebone Boy (in case the five stars didn't give that away).

1. Was the story fun to read? Was it ever! The pace, the snark, and the quirkiness of the writing was exactly what I was in the mood for, only I would never have guessed it. The Kneebone Boy never took itself too seriously, nor did it dissolve into pure silliness. Its creepy/adorable tone was similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events, but the story itself was 100% unique and totally unpredictable. Seriously. At one point, I
The Hardscrabble children of the small English town Little Tunks are….well, it may not be the most polite thing to say, but they’re odd. Max is a bit of a know-it-all who likes to sit on the roof of their house. Lucia longs for adventure, or at least for something interesting to happen. Otto is the oddest by far though. Otto likes to collect oddities (things like one-eyed frogs and lobsters with extra claws), he never takes his scarf off, and most of all he never talks. The Hardscrabbles’ father ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childhood
based on the reviews here, it seems that some people found the end-of-book revelation disappointing, but for me, it's what really made the book for me. in the beginning, the book seems to be magical realism, with a father who travels the world to paint the portraits of monarchs who've been deposed/exiled/kidnapped/etc and some quirky kids. throughout the story, the characters reflect on what an adventure feels like, and the Hardscrabble children (Otto, Lucia, and Max) are particularly influenced ...more
The KneeBone Boy

By:Ellen Potter

This book was about 3 kids that live in London. The kids think it gets pretty boring where they live, in such a small town. Everyone avoids you like the plague. Their father is an artist and he had to left suddenly on a business trip. He had to leave because his wife had disappeared. So their father sent his kids to their great aunt’s residence in a castle. But while the kids are there, they attempt to rescue the kneebone boy, who has been a prisoner of the castle
Melissa Chung
This was a slow, but interesting read. I'm giving The Kneebone Boy 3 stars because it took almost 200 pages to get to the point of the story.

Otto, Lucia and Max live with their father in Little Tunks where nothing remarkable ever happens. (This seems to be a very cliche start to all middle grade books). When the siblings were very small their mother disappeared. The town believe the whole lot of Hardscrabbles (that's their last name) are crazy or mad or both. Some blame Otto for his's mum's disa
colleen the convivial curmudgeon

This is an interesting little book. DEfinitely not quite what I was expecting - but that's not always a bad thing and, in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. Well, partially I'm just glad I didn't see a twist coming from a mile ahead for a change and, also, I kind of like how things were wrapped up in a bittersweet kind of way.

Though, that said, things were a bit too neatly wrapped up, and it's just a bit too pat - so there is that.

Anyway, the story follows the three Hardscrabble children
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RDNG 636 Fall 2015: The Kneebone Boy 1 3 Nov 09, 2015 08:35PM  
What's The Name o...: SOLVED. 3 siblings visit their Aunt and hear stuff about a boy in the woods. [s] 3 35 Aug 05, 2014 03:54AM  
the kneebone boy 9 32 Mar 27, 2014 04:53PM  
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Ellen Potter is the author of many children's books, including the Olivia Kidney series, Pish Posh, SLOB, and The Kneebone Boy. Her non-fiction book, Spilling Ink; a Young Writer’s Handbook, was co-authored by Anne Mazer

Olivia Kidney was awarded Child magazine’s “Best Children’s Book Award” and was selected as one of the “Books of the Year” by Parenting magazine.

SLOB is on more than 10 state book
More about Ellen Potter...
“All great adventures have moments that are really crap.” 86 likes
“Look, when do the really interesting things happen? Not when you've brushed your teeth and put on your pyjamas and are cozy in bed. They happen when you are cold and uncomfortable and hungry and don't have a roof over your head for the night.” 73 likes
More quotes…