Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Square Fish, 2007. 978-0-312-37009-1
Synopsis: Egan is sent to stay with his aunt in Instep for the annual fair, which celebrates the ancient tale of the Megrimum (pronounced Meg-ra-mum) who lives at the peak of Kneeknock Rise, a mountain overlooking the town. On stormy nights, the creature will awaken and its cries and wails can be heard in the town below. Much superstition surrounds the creature and it is said that those who have gone in search of the Megrimum have never returned. With the excitement of the fair approaching and his determination to prove to his cousin Ada that he is not a sissy, Egan begins to search for the answer to the ancient mystery of the monster.
Why I picked it up: My mother read it to her fifth graders and she recommended it to me.
Why I finished it: When Egan first comes to stay with his aunt a few days before the fair, he still seems unsure as to what to make of the tradition and superstition surrounding the Megrimum: is it real or is it just a legend blown out of proportion? Egan instantly bonds with his uncle’s dog Annabelle, who was left behind when his uncle disappeared near the top of Kneeknock Rise. Annabelle is very much like my dogs: she is loyal and loving, though she seems to be a few crayons short of a box, which readers who own dogs are likely to appreciate. What I liked the most about the story was that it is an original folktale that has not gone through the mill of being told and retold and distorted to fit a purpose. Babbitt’s drawings sprinkled intermittently throughout the book added a fun visual element to the story, which is laid out in short paragraphs rather than chapters to keep the flow of the action going. It was a quick read and the little mystery enjoyable, though I thought the characters were largely forgettable.
Other related materials: The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt; The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt; Goody Hall by Natalie Babbitt; The Devil’s Storybook by Natalie Babbitt; Abel’s Island by William Steig; The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden; The Bears of Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh; Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry; The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh