Author/Illustrator: Lane Smith
My rating: 4 of 5
To Augie Hobble, Fairy Tale Place off Route 66 is home. His parents have run the bedraggled attraction for most of his life–he even helps out around the place after school and on weekends and breaks! This summer, his life is more than a bit chaotic, though, as he deals with the joys of summer school. And for a failed Creative Arts project, no less! Augie’s just got to decide on something to do as a replacement, but he can’t pick. Not to mention, he is still on the bad side of the school bullies, AND there’s what appears to be a werewolf on the loose. Impossible, right? But Augie’s convinced otherwise, and his obsession with wolves is making it even harder to finish his school project. If only his best friend Britt were there to share all the craziness.
I’ve read any number of books illustrated by Lane Smith–all excellent–but I think Return to Augie Hobble is the first I’ve read that he’s written. It was quite interesting–quirky, funny, dark at times, and always unexpected. The characters were unique and interesting, although not stellar; certainly appropriate for a middle-grade adventure/slice-of-life, which this is. It was strange reading this in that it’s hard to tell exactly what it is. I mean, it starts out as a slice-of-life story about school, family, bullies, and the diminished-yet-remembered glamour of Route 66. But then more elements of adventure and fantasy get unexpectedly thrown in, until by the end it’s outright paranormal. Yet even at the end, it retains the binding elements that were introduced at the beginning also. I guess what I’m really saying is that the fantasy part threw me because I wasn’t expecting it–so if you do read this, be prepared. One of the more interesting factors of this book was the art–of course. Smith does a great job incorporating “photographs” and “journal pages” as a part of the story, weaving them in rather than just keeping them as supplemental illustrations. All in all, Return to Augie Hobble is a solid, interesting story, particularly for middle-grade readers.