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Spotlight on: The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer

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The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer Eoin Colfer, The Legend of Spud Murphy

After experiencing a rainy-day house filled with fifteen friends of their five sons, the Woodman parents decide that their two eldest boys, Will and Marty, are old enough -- at nine and eleven years old, respectively -- to spend a portion of their summer vacation days away from the house. This sounds like a great idea at first, but the boys are horrified when they learn their parents have decided that the library is the perfect location ("I'd much rather be riding a horse than reading about one," Will says).

However, even the prospect of spending two hours reading, three days a week, isn't as bad as the thought of the company they'll keep: Mrs. Murphy, the librarian the kids call "Spud" for her reported skill with a "gas-powered [gun] that takes an entire potato in the barrel," and her tendency to use it on noisy kids. (I had a high school history teacher with a similarly notorious reputation; he could hit a student in the head with a blackboard eraser from across the room.)

The future promises plenty of upcoming surprises for Will and Marty at their new hangout, not the least of which is what they find in the library books once they finally decide to hunker down and start actually reading them.

Eoin Colfer is the author of the internationally famous Artemis Fowl series of adventure novels. The Legend of Spud Murphy is the first in a reported series of short novels featuring the Woodman brothers (its follow-up, The Legend of Captain Crow's Teeth, is also available). While Colfer has written a fun, irreverent, wild ride of a book with easily identifiable characters, half of the credit for the book's success must go to illustrator Glenn McCoy. His detailed, cartoon-like drawings really capture the essence of Colfer's story, making the experience even more entertaining.

The Legend of Spud Murphy combines comedy, urban mythology, bravery, revenge, suspense, and drama into a tight little package with a neat twist at the end. Mrs. Murphy turns out to be less a caricature of a villain and more fully human than expected. Despite the negative portrayal of their fictional colleague, I believe that even librarians will recommend this book heartily.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form in The Gardner News. Copyright 2006.

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