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Castle Hangnail

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,394 ratings  ·  499 reviews
From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.

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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Dial Books
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Alicia Williams Absolutely! I'd love to have a daytime bat hang out on a necklace all day!

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 ·  2,394 ratings  ·  499 reviews

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Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Valente
Recommended to carol. by: Athena
Castle Hangnail is unbelievably charming and one of the first reads of the year to make it to my 'to buy' list. To be fair, there are a few issues, but any book I finish and immediately start reading is a solid five-star read.

Castle Hangnail is in need of a master or mistress. No matter if it is an Evil Sorceress, Loathsome Hag, Vampire Lord or an ordinary Mad Scientist, the Board of Magic cannot let a magical building stay untended. The castle's Minions have been doing the best they can, but th
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
These are dark times for children’s fantasy. Dark times indeed. Which is to say, when I pick up a fantasy novel for kids, more often than not I find the books filled with torture, violence, bloody blood, and other various unpleasant bits and pieces. And honestly? That is fine. There are a lot of kids out there who lap up gore like it was mother’s milk. Still, it’s numbing. Plus I really wish that there was more stuff out there for the younger kiddos. The ones who have entered the wide and wonder ...more
Lois Bujold
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy readers not above reading kids' books
Recommended to Lois by: on an Ursula Vernon kick this week
Fun fantasy kids' book; the denizens of a crumbling castle under threat of being magically decommissioned are surprised when their replacement wicked witch turns out to be a 12-year-old girl, five feet tall and very determined. Hijinks ensue.

The interesting train of thought this one started in me was about women's quests, and how they differ from men's quests. With the usual romance elements of such a story tossed out, the protagonist being twelve, the other essential parts of the pattern come i
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have always enjoyed the way that Terry Pratchett books can be enjoyed on many levels. On the surface, they are... cute. There's no other way to describe it. But dig just a tiny bit deeper and there is a world of intelligent commentary -- not HIDDEN from the mid-grade reader, just not bludgeoning them with "morality" or "ethics".

Vernon has accomplished the same trick with Castle Hangnail. On the first-level, it's a story about a little witch, a little castle, a little list of tasks to be accomp
Now first and foremost, Ursula Vernon's Castle Hangnail is simply entertainingly humorous with mild, generally very much palatable creepiness and presenting, featuring a sweetly appealing (if not lovable) young heroine, as well as delightfully showing the uplifting message that one can accomplish one's desired goals even if one might not necessarily be the so-called perfect fit (such as in Castle Hangnail with Molly trying to fit into her role as the new wicked witch of the castle and finally re ...more
This. Was. Adorable.

This played off all the tropes of wicked witches and mad scientists and spooky haunted castles. There were minions, and walking and talking suits of armor, minotaurs, and bats! Spellbooks, and magical duels, magic wands, and even mole wizards. Not to mention Molly, a Bad Twin and Wicked Witch, even if she is just a little bit young . . .
After sitting, master-less, for several years Castle Hangnail is being threatened with decommissioning. At their wits end, the castles' minions have sent out invitations to every wicked witch, sorceress and mad scientist they could find, to no avail. Until finally, one day the head minion opens the door to find a 12-year-old girl on their doorstep... self-proclaimed 'wicked witch' and evil-twin, Molly.

At least her boots look properly wicked.


This story is pretty solid, plot-wise. Wit
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Um, first let me say the blurb is ridiculous. I don't know who Tom Angleburger is, and I would if he were a relevant comparison. Roald Dahl is a whole 'nother vibe, except maybe for The BFG. A better comparison would be to Eva Ibbotson in that the emphasis is on kindness and respect for all creatures in a magical setting with plenty of adventure & humor.

On its own merits, this is enchanting. Molly is a wonderful person, very real. The world-building and all the supporting cast are rich, interest
Dnf for now -_-

This isn't a bad book! I actually liked the beginning, but then it kind lost momentum, and the thing became kind of boring.
Maybe I'll give it another chance one day.
Gin Jenny (Reading the End)
Do you miss Eva Ibbotson? Do you weep softly into your handkerchief that she has died and we will never have another one of her books? Do you want to love Eva Ibbotson but she hates fat people too much? BOY DO I HAVE A BOOK REC FOR YOU.

(Castle Hangnail is so cute (but not saccharine!) that I’m going to write the summary in short declarative sentences. If I try to make you read longer sentences about Castle Hangnail‘s plot, the adorability will be too much for you and you will die in the middle.)

"It was a marvelously dark and dour twilight at the castle. Clouds the color of bruises lay across the hills [...] The castle guardian was pleased. Sadly, Castle Hangnail was not surrounded by jagged mountains, which would have been ideal, but you couldn't have everything. The grassy hills around the castle were doing their best impression of a blasted moor. The guardian tried not to notice the dandelions growing on the hillside. They were much too cheerful. He would have a word with th
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was absolutely adorable! 12 year old Molly arrives at Castle Hangnail to be their Wicked Witch. When you're a little girl who doesn't fit in with pink and puppies, accepting an invitation to be the mistress of a castle seems like a good idea. Never mind that her parents think she is at summer camp. She has to save the castle!
This is a very entertaining middle school read. Molly successfully uses her wits to save the day.
The Captain
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
Ahoy there me mateys!  I learned about Ursula Vernon through her work under the pseudonym T. Kingfisher.  I was surprised to find that she has a lot of work written for children published under her "real" name.  As she says,
In order to never again have that horrific experience where I find myself running in slow motion across a library crying “Noooooooooo…!” as the well-meaning librarian hands a seven-year-old boy a copy of The One Book With The Torture Scene, I write for adults these days under
Mary Catelli
I stayed up entirely too late reading this book.

The minions of the title castle is eager to greet the new Master. After all, the Board has already given a pile of extensions and has indicated there will be no more, but the ravens have said the new master is finally coming.

Turns out she's rather small. And young. But Molly can make herself invisible and is ready to tackle the tasks to become the Master. And has the invitation. (Which, we, but not the minions, soon learn, she took.) She meets the
Benjamin Appleby-Dean
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Ursula Vernon (who also writes as T Kingfisher) has one of my favourite voices in current fantasy - she's charming without being trite, inventive without feeling contrived, and funny in a way that never overwhelms her storytelling.

In Castle Hangnail, she brings us the tale of the inhabitants of a monster-haunted fortress waiting for their new Mistress, and discovering that she turns out to be a twelve-year-old girl. The tone of the place is pitched perfectly between sinister and sympathetic - th
Welcome to Hotel Transylvan-er, I mean Castle Hangnail! It welcomes you, creaky doors and broken staircases and all.

A children's haunted castle parody, with hilarious, cartoony touches like in 'Witch Wars', except containing more nuance and character development. It's also like 'Isadora Moon' in that it embraces both light and darkness and the complex nature of everyone.

'Castle Hangnail' is a fun, cute, heartwarming book that can be gloomy and spooky but never scary, even for kids. There are suc
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

I'll be honest, Castle Hangnail was a situation where I may have judged a book by its cover. Honestly, it didn't appeal to me, didn't speak to me, until one day I felt possessed to pick it up and start reading.

I was hooked from the first page.

On my long commute home from test one of three during this week, I was happy that Castle Hangnail had kept me company through the traffic jam. Being trapped on a bus without a book is my worst nightmare, and ha
Jannah (Cloud Child)
When I found this in my recommendations and read the blurb I squealed inside because this is exactly the kind of book that fulfills the need of my inner child. I got an ebook copy STRAIGHT AWAY and now Im going to read it STRAIGHT AWAY at 4.16am in the morning because it is worthy of some neglect in the brain cell area. Apologies to those who are under the impression that I'm an aspiring adult.
Finally finished. Was even better than my expectations.

Castle Hangnail is in trouble. The Board of
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book late last night and I finished it earlier this morning, dreaming of Molly and her minions, the whole time.

This book.


Ursula Vernon is a gifted author, humorous and kind, yet capable of chilling one's spine with but a line or six. Her short fiction is mesmerizing. Sometimes, beautiful meditations of the small moments in life. Sometimes, a thing so rich in shadow that you can't help but shiver a little. And her books for grown-ups?


For some reason, despi
Megan Baxter
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recently, it feels like I have read a number of very good books that have nonetheless been a little heavy, and another bunch of books that have been frustrating. It's been a while since I read something that was just thoroughly delightful in almost every way. So I am delighted to report that as a young adult fantasy novel (or perhaps even younger), Castle Hangnail was so much fun to read from beginning to end.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy
Rachel (Kalanadi)
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
I want to be 12 years old with a wee talking bat hanging off my ear, gently snoring. This is an excellent middle grade book about the importance of loving and caring for others, the difference between being wicked and really evil, and recognizing bad friends you should drop like a rock. Also, gardening. Mint DOES take over like a weed.
Matthew Galloway
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, funny, fantasy, mg
There’s really not much more to say than, “I want more!” It’s the best kind of kid’s book where it’s fun and funny, yet sweet and heartfelt and addresses important lessons in life. For instance, I think even most adults still need to learn the lesson about what a real friend is like...
Ms. Yingling
Jul 24, 2014 rated it liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Molly shows up at the derelict Castle Hangnail and informs its Guardian that she is the new keeper, and a witch at that, even though she looks suspiciously like a little girl. Since the castle will not be able to go on if there is not a new keeper, the Guardian grudgingly agrees to let her in, and gets her set up to take over the castle. There is a list of required activities, such as smiting someone (and Vernon knows the principal parts of the verb! Hooray
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg-fiction
Totally adorable and just a little bit wicked, this book was my favorite MG fantasy in a long time. I looooove 12-year-old Molly, who's decided to be a wicked witch instead of a good one because the wicked ones have much more fun - but who is also determined not to be Evil. There are lines she will not cross! And oh, do I love her whole castle-full of assorted minions, as well as all the other fabulous characters in this book. It all reads a bit like an inspired blend of Diana Wynne Jones and Te ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Middle School & up
A terrific read, the best to date I think from Ursula Vernon for the Middle School on up crowd, especially the 'on up' age group! As everyone is saying, it's wacky & fun, has a terrific world-setting and likable and very real-seeming characters.

It's refreshingly clear of the drippy morality seen in so many children's stories from the last few decades & equally free of the random blood-splattered overdone violence, but 'Castle Hangnail' is still a Kid's Book in the best sense of the term. It is a
If I were an eight-year-old girl, I would have adored this. Even as an adult, it kept me up till midnight reading. The prose and pictures are charming, and while I still found the resolution a little abrupt it felt better-earned than in Vernon/Kingfisher's earlier books. Also, the subplot based on local Pittsboro politics makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. (If only it had such a happy ending in real life.)
This is lovely. It's partly coming of age, partly finding one's place, and mostly about figuring out how to handle friendships and learning scientific names of critters to turn them into dragons. As you do.
Belles Middle Grade Library
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much!! Soooo good! Molly was the best little wicked witch ever! This has everything you need for a good time spooky read. An old castle, wicked witch, minions, an evil sorceress & more.... I wish this would have turned into a series, just so I could have more stories w/these amazing characters. Majordomo was amazing! I adored Cook, Angus, Serenissima, Edward...& even the moles, the donkey, & the bees! I even loved that goldfish! Lol I absolutely loved Bugbane! So cute! Eudai ...more
Sam Kuntz
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: yes
Recommended to Sam by: yes
Castle Hangnail follows Molly (a young witch) as she becomes the Master of Castle Hangnail. Her magical abilities are quite powerful. One of her most powerful spells is a phrase that unbinds your shadow from your body.

She goes to Castle Hangnail because it needs a Master, because the old one became a little crazy (she is currently at a nursing home believing that she is a rosebush.) Molly's 'friend' gets a letter about the vacancy at the castle and says she doesn't want to go to "that rundown-pa
I mostly know Ursula for Digger, and other less kid-oriented books. Those all show a wonderful sense of humor that would find itself at home in a younger audience, and so it is here. A definite advantage of her younger books is that you get even more of her wonderful art, which is nicely formatted in on the Kindle version (generally not a given).

Pretty much all the action happens in Camp Castle Hangnail and a nearby village, which feels a bit like it should be in England, but everyone's using do
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Play Book Tag: Castle Hangnail - Ursula Vernon (4 stars) 1 8 Aug 07, 2020 03:34PM  
Great Middle Grad...: BOTM for OCTOBER is CASTLE HANGNAIL 47 45 Nov 07, 2018 02:57PM  
All About Fantasy!: April Middle Grade Book 4 8 Apr 04, 2017 03:54PM  
Hoyt's Huns: Castle Hangnail --March 2016 -- no spoilers 9 13 Aug 30, 2016 03:27PM  
Goodreads Librari...: quote without book 2 21 Jun 15, 2015 07:14AM  

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Ursula Vernon is a freelance writer, artist and illustrator. She is best known for the webcomic Digger and the children's books Dragonbreath and Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew. Ursula is also a prolific painter and the creator of the Biting Pear of Salamanca, a work which became an internet meme in the form of the "LOL WUT" pear.

Ursula's cover for Best in Show

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