Welcome, my bookish friends! Today I have a real treat for you. This title looks like so much fun - and I'll be diving into it myself shortly. It disappeared from my stack and I just rediscovered it in my son's pile. Read on for a description of the book and then a fabulous Q&A with the title character - written by Elinor Teele.
For even more excitement - head to the bottom of the post to learn how you could win a signed copy (generously sent to you by the publisher).
Hardcover, 352 pages
Pub Date: April 12th 2016 by Walden Pond Press
ISBN 0062345109 (ISBN13: 9780062345103)
Roald Dahl meets The Penderwicks in this quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about two siblings who run away from home to escape working in the family coffin business.
John Coggin is no ordinary boy. He is devising an invention that nobody has ever seen before, something that just might change the world, or at least make life a little bit better for him and his little sister, Page. But that’s only when he can sneak a break from his loathsome job—building coffins for the family business under the beady gaze of his cruel Great-Aunt Beauregard.
When Great-Aunt Beauregard informs John that she’s going to make him a permanent partner in Coggin Family Coffins—and train Page to be an undertaker—John and Page hit the road. Before long, they’ve fallen in with a host of colorful characters, all of whom, like John and Page, are in search of a place they can call home. But home isn’t something you find so much as something you fight for, and John soon realizes that he and Page are in for the fight of their lives.
An Interview with John Coggin
John Coggin is an 11-year-old boy, somewhat undersized, with a grave and quiet demeanor. Although John spent much of his youth working for “Coggin Family Coffins,” in recent months he has started to explore the world beyond. I spoke to him while he was working on a strange vehicle that he said was based – and this is an exact quote – on an Autopsy.
Q. That’s an interesting project you’ve got there.
A. It’s steam-powered.
Q. What’s wrong with it?
A. It runs okay at the moment, but I think the boiler metal is too thin – I don’t want it to explode in the middle of the street. And I’m having trouble with the flow of steam into the cylinder with the pistons. I may have a small leak in a feedpipe join.
Q. You sound like you know what you’re doing. Did you learn about engineering in school?
A. No, I didn’t go to school – I was making coffins. But I did a lot of reading when I could. Most of the time I figure things out by trial and error.
Q. Tell me about making coffins.
A. It’s awful.
Q. Is that all you want to say about it?
A. I guess it taught me discipline. It would be really hard to make mechanical monsters if I didn’t know how to drill a hole or measure twice and cut once. But I never got to use my imagination. Kids should be able to use their imaginations.
Q. What else – besides imagination and discipline – does an engineer need to have?
A. Excuse me, but if you stand where you’re standing you’re going to get blasted in the face with boiling hot steam.
Q. Oh, I see. Yes. I’ll move. So what else…?
A. Patience, because you’re going to screw stuff up – a lot. I think I rebuilt that engine four times before I got it to run. And being stubborn and brave. You’ve got to be brave because most people are going to tell you’re nuts. And help. You’ll always need help.
Q. What do you mean by help?
A. Like my little sister Page. She’s always ready to hold the soldering iron. And Colonel Joe. He’s the one who gave me the loan to buy the parts for the steam engine. And Miss Doyle. She taught me about coming at a problem sideways. You can’t build anything in this world without a family and friends.
Q. What about your redheaded friend, Boz? How does he help?
A. Boz tends to blow things up.
Q. Yes, but when he’s not blowing things up?
A. Um, I guess… I think… maybe Boz is a catalyst!
Q. I’m not sure if I…
A. That’s it! I knew there was a scientific word for him. A catalyst causes and accelerates reactions. That’s what Boz does – he gets me excited about a project.
Q. Isn’t a catalyst dangerous?
Sure. He uses gasoline when he shouldn’t and steals fire trucks to take them for joy rides and complains about dog hair and sewage, but he’s Boz. At least he’s not boring.
Q. I heard he was cursed with the gift of gab.
Q. I meant he uses strange words and talks too much.
A. That’s true. Nobody understands what Boz is saying.
Q. Doesn’t that bother you?
A. Not really. I like having him around.
Q. Well, thank you for your time, John. I’d leave you to work on your project.
A. Come back in a few months. I’m thinking about making it fly.
There's even an Educational Activity Kit based on the book for use in the classroom or library!
Check out all the stops on the blog tour...
April 11 - Bluestocking Thinking
April 12 - Novel Novice
April 13 – This Kid Reviews Books
April 14 - Maria's Melange
April 15 - Unleashing Readers
April 18 - Next Best Book
April 19 - Foodie Bibliophile
April 20 - For Those About to Mock
April 21 - Walden Media Tumblr
April 22 - Charlotte's Library
April 25 – Flashlight Reader
April 26 - Teach Mentor Texts
April 27 - Librarian's Quest
April 28 - Kid Lit Frenzy
April 29 - Novel Novice
Disclaimers: Content provided by the publisher. I received a review copy of the novel.