Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Leaving the Bellweathers

Leaving the Bellweathers

Kristin Clark Venuti
For ages 9 to 12
Egmont USA, 2009   ISBN: 978-1606840061

Two hundred years ago Horatio Bellweather set sail in the HMS Scurvy and only six days later the ship was wrecked in a terrible storm. Horatio saved a man called Nigel Bellwether from drowning, and when they reach land Nigel Benway “pledged the loyalty and service of his descendants for the next two hundred years” to the Bellweather family.

   Let us now jump to the present day. Tristan Benway (Nigel’s great-great-great-great grandson) is currently serving as butler to the Bellweather family at the Lighthouse on the Hill and his life is often uncomfortable and decidedly difficult. His employer, Eugene Bellweather, PhD, is an eccentric inventor who bellows when people make a noise or when he is disturbed. His wife Lillian spends her days painting their lighthouse home, over and over again. Certainly the adult Bellweathers take some getting used to, but they are not too troublesome in the big scheme of things. The young Bellweathers are another story altogether.

   Spider Bellweather spends his time trying to find and then bring home endangered species that have the ability to “poison, main, or kill people.” Because of Spider’s collecting tendencies, Benway has been exposed to many extremely dangerous and nasty creatures, and he has become adept at dealing with dangerous animals.

  Spider’s younger sister Ninda, in an effort to be a good person who helps others, is forever bringing home people who, in her opinion, are “Downtrodden by Society.” None of the family members are very keen on Ninda’s “guests” but there is nothing they can say or do to prevent Ninda from trying to “help” people.

   Then there are the triplets, Sassy, Spike, and Brick. These three children cannot seem to talk properly. They can only shout. In addition, they spend their days finding ways to create art. This may sound very tame, but they like to create art by destroying things. Their process always involves destruction in some form or another. They are particularly fond of blowing things up.

   Not surprisingly, Benway is counting the days, hours, and minutes until his forced employment at the Bellweather home is over. His plan is to write a tell-all book about his experiences and then to use his book earnings to buy a little house by the sea “Far, Far Away.” In only a few weeks the Oath of Fealty that his ancestor Nigel Benway signed will expire, and Benway will finally be able to leave the chaotic and dangerous Bellweather household.

   As the days, hours, and minutes go by, the Bellweathers behave in their usual manner. Spider acquires a very large and bad tempered Endangered Albino Alligator. Ninda brings home a family of circus performers and their very smelly seal and hides them in her bedroom. Ninda is so determined to teach her guests about the importance of defying their “oppressors” that she refuses to let the poor people go. They are practically prisoners.

   The triplets decide that they want to share their art with the world, and so they put a plan together. As part of the Global art Exchange program, the Mona Lisa is going to be on display at the local museum. The triplets think that it would be a great idea to remove the Mona Lisa from the display and replace the painting with their own work of art.

   The children are happily going about their business when they figure out that Benway, their faithful butler, is contemplating leaving them. They find out about his upcoming book and see an advertisement that he has posted about an “Employment Opportunity” at the Lighthouse on the Hill. The children are quite distressed. How will they be able to manage without Benway? There has to be something they can do to persuade him to stay.

   In this deliciously funny story readers will encounter some wonderfully outrageous characters who develop and grow as the story unfolds. The tale combines Benway’s journal entries with a narrative that perfectly captures how bizarre the Bellweathers are. The good news is that the Bellweathers and poor Benway will back for another adventure soon.