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Figgs & Phantoms

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,147 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Mona was miserable. You would be too if your family consisted of: Sister Figg Newton (Tap Dancer, Baton Twirler, and also your mother); Truman, the human pretzel (your uncle); Aunt Gracie Jo, the dog catcher, and her son, Fido the Second. To name a few. The only person Mona really gets along with is Uncle Florence, the book dealer. And he keeps hinting that he may have to ...more
Hardcover, 152 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Peter Smith Pub Inc (first published June 17th 1974)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,147 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Jan 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Apr 12, 2009 rated it liked it
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 Raskin's fond of making little inside jokes and puns on pop culture, but most of the pop culture references are sadly outdated.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
Maybe when the Newbery club gets around to the year this was honored, and I reread it, I'll appreciate it better. Now I see a dark, surreal, artsy fable. I admire it, but I really don't like it. But I feel I should, even could, in the right frame of mind, with the right discussion mates.

The original (?) cover is brilliant. A B&W faceless tween girl, holding a pink and orange miniature desert island, complete with palm tree and Uncle Flo. The other covers that I see here are nonsense and to be av
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 23, 2011 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
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
Jan 02, 2012 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
Greg Kerestan
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 are r
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade, mystery
Mona was miserable. You would be too if your family consisted of: Sister Figg Newton (Tap Dancer, Baton Twirler, and also your mother); Truman, the human pretzel (your uncle); Aunt Gracie Jo, the dog catcher, and her son, Fido the Second. To name a few. The only person Mona really gets along with is Uncle Florence, the book dealer. And he keeps hinting that he may have to leave Mona soon to go to Figg family heaven, a place referred to as "Capri." But where is Capri, and why do all the Figgs go ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, nook
Oh why is Ellen Raskin such an incredible author with only 4 books! I can't quite put my finger on why I like her books so much when I don't like other people's books that are similar. It's just she can write about what is seemingly nonsense yet pull you into the story and make it real nonetheless.
Figgs and Phantoms was different than what I thought, altogether very peculiar. It reminded me very much of Meet the Robinsons with Mona's wild ex-circus family! Heck they even have twins in their fa
Alger Smythe-Hopkins
Even for a mid-1970's YA novel, this book is weak on plot and sloppy in execution. There is also a lot of petty crime that goes on in this book that the reader is expected to approve of because the characters doing it are #quirky. Quirky in this context means they behave oddly, if not maniacally. There is a squicky teen cousin budding romance subtext amid the petty fraud that simply doesn't add to the story. Then there are the flights of fancy that take place on the Isle of Capri, which try for ...more
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
Jul 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2007 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.
Apr 20, 2010 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. ...more
Aug 14, 2012 added it
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.
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
You know how the elders in your life will sometimes just offload whatever they have on hand to the younger generations? My spouse and I have learned that there's only one answer to that question: why yes, of course we'll take [that item/box/pile], what a generous offer and of course we'll make use of it! But that often winds up the preamble to hauling the [item/box/pile] to the garbage or, if we're feeling sufficiently generous with our time, Goodwill.

One such offload was a bag of (mostly) books
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maria Rowe
• 1975 Newbery Honor Book •

I was excited to read this because I really love "The Westing Game", but this is one strange book. I was really thrown off by the odd names, and just the whole oddity of the family. So it went from a weird book with quirky characters in the first half, to Mona dealing with her uncle's death in the second half. It went from weird to depressing. Something just wasn't working for me in this book... It almost feels like a first draft. I also wasn't thrilled that Mona's cou
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First encountered this book in elementary school in the late 1970s while burning through the list of Newbery books. It stuck with me, but, couldn't remember the author or title. Wasn't that hard to find it though; not so many YA books about rare bookstores or Joseph Conrad fetishes.

After re-reading, must say this was darker and more thought-provoking than I remembered. Many reviews talk about the big shift between the halves of the book and I agree. But in the end was still happy to revisit.
Amber Scaife
Mona Lisa Figg is full of teenage angst against her village weirdo family, all except her Uncle Florence. When she realizes that she's going to lose him, things fall completely apart for her, and she decides on a desperate search for the lost island of Capri, to which the more eccentric members of her family believe they go when they die.
This one started out strange in a quirky and good way, but once Mona embarks on some strange fever dream quest, the quirky and good starts to fade and we're lef
Steve Ward
This is a fun to read book that is quite imaginative. I was not enamored by all the unusual characters the author chose to put in one family. It is a lighthearted book for the first two thirds then it takes a dreamy turn into a tale of fantasy which I enjoyed more than the silliness of the early portion. I'm not sure how young readers will react to the odd characters but I will still recommend it. ...more
Matthew Hodge
I'm a fan of Ellen Raskin but this one was tough. A slight tale which does have a great deal of underlying sweetness and sadness but is buried in so many absurd and strange characters that it never quite connects.

My kids might have liked it a bit better - I read it out loud to them - but they weren't jumping up and down at the end.
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was just amazing and it absolutely touched my heart in that Jane Austen way for some reason, except it was nothing like Jane Austen at all. We all loved this book and the imagery, story, plight and wants roll over me again and again even long after the book has come to it's close. It is so strange how this authors mind works and I just loved it. ...more
Sarah Kochert
Oct 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
only finished it because I was reading it aloud to my oldest and she insisted we continue because she said it was weird and different. Definitely those things, but not good weird/different for me. I don't see how this was a Newbery book. ...more
Patrick Aland
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as good as Westing Game but still great

Not quite as good as Westing Game but still great. It’s a good UCF read and does have a little adult content in it but me and my kids loved reading this one.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a quick read with quirky characters. What has endeared this book to me is how it allows the reader to experience the grief the main character experiences. I loved the message of grief and acceptance of oneself and family members.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A very interesting blend of the wacky, goofy, literary, and metaphysical. I liked the self-consciousness of the teenage main character and I found the ending satisfying. All the wackiness was a little grating at the beginning, but I found most of the humor charming.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, newberry, 2019
Very odd little book but I enjoyed it. I loved the wacky Newton-Figg family and how they dream of going to Capri. I loved the sweet message about family. Not even close to as good as the Westing Game, but still excellent fun. One of the better Newberry books.
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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

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