Goodreads: The Problim Children
Series: The Problim Children #1
Published: Feb. 2018
The seven Problim children live in the Swampy Woods while their parents explore for the Queen of Andorra. But then one day their house goes KABOOM! Faced with being homeless, they cheerfully move into their grandfather’s old mansion in the town of Lost Cove. But their neighbors are not at all pleased. Sam surrounds the house with fog, Mona has a human catapult in the yard, and their baby brother Toot rides a pig while releasing outrageous farts. Worse, the town is convinced the children are cursed–and they will do anything to have them taken away and separated..
Natalie Lloyd’s previous two books, A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, enchanted me with their warmth and their joy. They celebrate family and encourage loud living. I was eagerly looking forward to The Problim Children as a result. However, though the book is a solid middle-grade novel, I find that is lacking a little something special, the thing that make Lloyd’s other books so special.
I think that the large cast of characters in this one may have been a little too much for Lloyd to handle gracefully. Thea comes across as the most complex and realistic as she is the only Problim whose head readers get to look inside. (I assume future books will focus on different Problims.) Her brothers and sisters come across simply as one specific character trait: Mona is creepy, Sundae is weirdly cheerful, and Toot farts. A lot. They do not have a lot of personality, but instead seem to be trying too hard to be quirky.
The plot is fairly standard. The children have inherited an old mansion and suspect that there are clues inside that will lead to hidden treasure. Meanwhile, a nasty neighbor is doing her best to demonstrate that the children are neglected and must be shipped off to live in several different continents. I do not mind that the plot is one that appears in many a middle-grade. I know full well that Lloyd can make any plot her own. However, I think her signature will need time to come out in the sequels.
The Problim Children is a fun book that celebrates the strength of family and inspires readers with the message than any problem is a gift. I think it will be very popular with middle school readers. I simply hope that we see stronger characterization in the sequels.