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.
Grades 4-7. When the family business is coffin-making, chances are your childhood is a bit bleak. This is certainly the case for John and Page Coggin: John has been forced to work making coffins since he was quite young. Now his nasty great-aunt Beauregard—the siblings’ guardian—wants Page to earn her keep by dressing and applying makeup to the “customers.” When a mysterious stranger offers John a way out, he and Page take it, encountering a circus, a bakery, and, ultimately, an archaeological dig. But Beauregard always seems to be right behind John and Page, ready to enslave them forever in the coffin business. Adventures, high stakes, and risks propel this debut novel forward at a breakneck pace. Eccentric characters, mean guardians, and improbable situations, many involving poop, will appeal to middle-grade readers. Pair this with The Doldrums, by Nicholas Gannon (2015), and Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley (2015), for readers who enjoy the unexpected in offbeat adventures.