When Mr. Socrates, a member of the shadowy PermanentAssociation, hears of a hunchbacked infant with theability to transform his appearance, he decides to take him in.Naming him Modo, he raises the boy in isolation, training himto become a secret agent. Then, when Modo turns fourteen,his education is complete. He is transported to the streets ofdowntown London and abandoned, penniless, to try to survive.
But Modo is resourceful, and he finds a way to get by,keeping to himself . . . until one day, when the beautiful OctaviaMilkweed knocks on his door. Soon, with the help of Mr.Socrates, Modo and Octavia find themselves uncovering a sinisterplot being carried out in the very sewers beneath their feet.Will they be able to stop the mad scientist Dr. Hyde before heunleashes his monstrous plans upon unsuspecting Londoners?
About the author
The first volume in ARTHUR SLADE’s Hunchback Assignments series won the prestigious TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, and the second volume, The Dark Deeps, was a finalist for the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award and the CLA Young Adult Book Award. Slade is also the author of Dust, a national bestseller and the winner of the 2001 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, the Mr. Christie’s Book Award and the Saskatchewan Book Award for Children’s Literature. His other books include Tribes, Megiddo’s Shadow, Jolted, Monsterology, Villainology and the Canadian Chills series. He lives in Saskatoon. Visit him online at arthurslade.com.
The Hunchback Assignmentsreviewed from uncorrected proof
“You are deformed. You are ugly. But remember this day, Modo. It’s the day you learned that you’ve been given an incredible gift. Your unsightly countenance may seem unbearable now, but because of it, the world will always underestimate you.”
The Hunchback Assignments is the first book in award-winning author Arthur Slade’s new series. Five-year-old Modo was snacking on bread and honey with his governess when his guardian-keeper, Mr. Socrates, forces the lad to look in a mirror at his deformed face. While Socrates informs Modo that this unsightliness may be an advantage, he is also very pleased that Modo has the gift of being able to change his face to temporarily resemble anyone he wishes. Perhaps that is why the mysterious Mr. Socrates has kept the boy since he discovered him as a toddler, educating and training him for a purpose that is slowly revealed to readers. With seeming cruelty, Socrates abandons the teenaged Modo on the streets of London, where his path becomes intertwined with the beautiful orphan, Octavia Milkweed. He learns that they are both spies for The Permanent Association, a secret organization that is out to squelch the evil forces of the Clockwork Guild. These evil scientists have in their employ, Doctor Cornelius Hyde, whose personality-changing tinctures and body-part-replacing experiments are being practised on both adults and children!
Readers who aren’t afraid of having nightmares will burn the midnight oil to finish this engrossing story. While terrifying in some ways, there is also a lightness to the work that readers will appreciate. I suspect Slade had fun playing with the literary stereotypes – Mr. Hyde and (Quasi)Modo – and dusting off little known Victorian facts about steam power, gadgets and gizmos.
Books like those by Slade, Skelton and Anderson make us curious about the social, cultural and mythical history of our world. Kress hints that we should look carefully into the ninja-concealing shadows of the world around us, while Bradford coaxes us to look for new worlds. Fantasy, in all its forms, stimulates readers to expand their boundaries – real and imagined.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2009. Vol.32 No.3.
The Hunchback AssignmentsModo, a hunchback child, has the ability to transform his appearance and is trained by Mr. Socrates to be a secret agent. Together they uncover the sinister plot of mad scientist, Dr. Hyde. Can they stop things before his monstrous plans are unleashed?
Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2010.