Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master. All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim’s trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own. There’s no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into evil hands???and his new family from suffering a terrible fate. Grubb knows he’s no hero. He’s just a chimney sweep. But armed with only his courage and wits, Grubb will confront the life-or-death battle he alone is destined to fight.

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Combining aspects of steampunk and fantasy, Funaro debuts with this fanciful series opener set in a 19th-century London where strange things-Odditoria-exist in secret. Chimney sweep Grubb, "twelve or thereabouts," accidentally ends up in the bizarre Odditorium of the enigmatic Alistair Grim. In this magically empowered mechanical marvel of a building he discovers mobile suits of samurai armor, a petulant fairy, a talking pocketwatch, a playful banshee, and more. But even as Grubb gets used to the constant weirdness of the Odditorium, he and its inhabitants are drawn into a conflict against the wicked Prince Nightshade and his legions of re-animated skeletal warriors and other monsters. Funaro's knack for memorable characters and scenarios shines in this frenetic, entertaining romp. Action and mayhem abound, and although the story risks overloading readers with too many disparate elements and unusual creations (a glossary is included), Funaro brings it all together with clever worldbuilding. The story is enhanced by To's illustrations, which blend realism and exaggeration to great effect. Ages 10 13.—Publisher's Weekly
Grubb is an orphan taken in as a baby by Mr. and Mrs. Smears. Mrs. Smears considers him their son, but she dies when Grubb is six. Mr. Smears consigns him to the stables to sleep and trains him to be a chimney sweep, feeding him little in order to keep him small. Most of his jobs as a sweep are tolerable, but he always dreads the Lamb's End, a local inn, not only for the number of chimneys and their labyrinthine flues, or the way Mr. Smears drinks up the pay, but because of the twin sons of the inn's owner, who tease and physically bully him. Again they bully him and again he knocks against them and runs, but between the mess he has made in the room he dropped into and breaking the tooth of one of the twins, he knows he will be sent to the workhouse. A bit of luck provides a way out-a guest is leaving, and Grubb hides in the man's trunk. That flight introduces him to the first of what will be his new life. The coach's owner takes him into his home, the Odditorium, and its otherworldly inhabitants. His new life will not be without problems, as Alastair Grim has secrets and powerful enemies.
With a dash of Dickens and more than a bit of Rowling, this first book in a proposed series should have no trouble finding an audience, although its length may mean some readers will need encouragement to pick it up—VOYA
Grubb, a 12-year-old (or thereabouts) chimney sweep who works for the grumpy Mr. Smears, is pulled away on an adventure he never expects in this rollicking fantasy. When running from local bullies, Grubb jumps into Alistair Grim's trunk, and when he steps out, he's at the Odditorium, Grim's home for all things weird and wonderful in old London. He's chased by doom dogs, flies with multicolored fairies, and happily forgets the misery of his early life while working under the dark and enigmatic Alistair Grim. It's not all fun high jinks, however, and soon trouble comes knocking at the Odditorium's door. Funaro's world building and characters are fascinating, and the fast pace and overstuffed plot-from war in the air to a daring escape from sea sirens-make for an exciting story. Funaro's first book for young readers has all the playfulness of classic adventures like The Phantom Tollbooth and the intrigue of newer steampunk novels, making it a clever mash-up of mystery and merriment, ideal for kids who loved Percy Jackson and Harry Potter—Booklist
Victorian-era adventure with a supernatural stock of magical and mythical players. Grubb ("no first or last name") was a doorstep drop-off adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Smears. With the death of compassionate Mrs. Smears, he is left in the care of Mr. Smears, a brutish chimney sweep. Grubb is forced to sweep chimneys for no pay while nasty Mr. Smears broods over beer. After a mishap involving soot and a horrid hotelier, Grubb hides in the trunk of a parting guest to avoid a beating. The guest is Alistair Grim, and when Grubb exits the trunk, he is in the titular Odditorium, a collective of "Odditoria" (among them a talking watch and a trickster banshee). Grubb is invited to work for Grim under the proviso that he won't reveal magical secrets, but when he unwittingly breaks that cardinal rule, he attracts Grim's nemesis. Battles, kidnapping and sorcery ensue. The series opener's Anglophile charm is occasionally muddied with an abundance of character introductions. To navigate this bevy of names and species, there is a character list and glossary. Black-and-white illustrations somewhere between daguerreotype and manga supplement the vivid textual imagery. Grubb's cheat-to-the-audience moments at either end of the story are frustrating, if widely spaced ("My apologies, but I'm afraid you'll have to take my word"). Verne-ian fantasy and reversal of fortune la Dickens will lure readers into this good-vs.-evil series debut. (Fantasy. 10-13)—Kirkus
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