Series: Untitled #1
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
This hilarious middle grade series with color illustrations throughout is The Sisters Grimm meets Shrek!
For Nobbin Swill, life is no fairy tale. His family has been the king’s royal dung farmers for generations. It’s a stinky job and someone has to do it, but Nobbin doesn’t want to spend his whole life as a dung farmer.
On a dark, cloudy night, Nobbin catches a flicker of moonlight glimmering off something in the dung. It could be a button or a buckle, something that might fetch him a coin from the shoemaker. But it turns out to be a very valuable ring–the king’s ring, and one that could offer Nobbin a life free from dung!
But Nobbin isn’t a thief and would never steal from the king, so he makes his way to the castle. When he tries to return the ring, things only become more complicated, and he ends up having to help the hapless Prince Charming solve a mystery when the woodcutter’s children–Gretel, and her younger brother, Hansel–go missing. Will the two be able to solve the case? Children will enjoy this hilarious mystery, with two-color illustrations throughout by author/illustrator Lisa Harkrader!
Crumbled! The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill is a light-hearted lower middle grade novel that will appeal to fans of slightly irreverent fairy tales. (The marketing team is positioning it as a book for Shrek fans.) The story follows Nobbin, the youngest brother in a family of dung farmers (a real job, as the afterword explains) as he accidentally finds himself swept up in court politics and a mystery centering around two missing children.
The book is not entirely my taste (I don’t necessarily find dung jokes funny), and I don’t think the general idea or the plot are really that original. “Peasant boy who dreams of something bigger than his father’s and grandfather’s career and finds himself the brains helping a bumbling prince” does not necessarily get points for uniqueness. However, it’s a plot that 1) will probably be fresher to the target audience than it is to me and 2) that tends to have some appeal even if you’ve seen something like it before. A lot of readers love rooting for an underdog, and one almost can’t help cheering for Nobbin so he can escape his caricaturishly mean brothers and, well, not be a dung farmer.
So the book has some heart and some humor, and it even comes through with a solid mystery and a villain one would expect to feature even more prominently in the sequels. This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but I think it will be popular with its target audience, and I kind of like the idea of Nobbin and his rag tag team having a series where they go around solving fairy tale mysteries. It’s not a high priority for me, but I would have some interest in reading more of the series, which is a good sign.