Roald Dahl meets The Penderwicks in this quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about two siblings who run away from home to escape working in the family coffin business. A great find for budding engineers (and STEM-minded teachers).
- Age Range: 8-12 years
- Genre: Adventure/Comedy
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press, an Imprint of HarperCollins
- Illustrator: The talented Ben Whitehouse
- Kid Interest: Inventions, Explosions, Wordplay, Circuses, Chicken Poo, Runaway Vehicles
- Author Visits: Ask Elinor to visit your school, library, or bookshop!
MORE TO EXPLORE
- Classroom Guide: Walden Pond/HarperCollins Educational Activities Kit
- Free Games: Free word games from Boz’s Games Department
- STEM Reading List: 22 awesome & engaging middle grade STEM books
“Remember, bleakness builds character!”
A thwarted inventor, John Coggin knows there is no time to waste. His horrible Great Aunt Beauregard is ready to put his younger sister, Page, to work in the family coffin business. If they don’t escape now, they’ll be trapped for the rest of their lives.
Accompanied by an accident-prone acrobat named Boz, John and Page embark on a series of improbable adventures. Marvels of engineering are created and destroyed. Fireworks, chocolate cake, and exploding chicken poo mix with battles, blood, and heartbreak.
When Great Aunt Beauregard finally gets her hands on Page, it will take all of John’s wits and imagination (and a little help from Boz) to save his sister from a fate worse than death.
“Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures.” Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Adventures, high stakes, and risks propel this debut novel forward at a breakneck pace. Eccentric characters, mean guardians, and improbable situations, many involving poop, will appeal to middle-grade readers.” Booklist
“A charming fantasy/adventure to add to larger middle grade collections.” School Library Journal
“John’s sharp brain and fierce love for his sister make him a memorable protagonist, and readers will be rooting for him even when he messes up multiple times. Surrounding him are an excellent mix of bumblers, villains, tricksters, and pure-as-gold good people who get enough attention to make them feel real on the page but don’t take away from the core duo of Page and John. Lovers of pastiche will find this a worthy romp from start to finish.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“The book, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin, is about John and Page Coggin and how they ran away from their great aunt and the family business and joined the circus. They made lots of friends along the way, and in each place they had another action packed adventure…
Boz is a funny guy. Like, really funny! His hair is fire red and humongogiantalistic (This basically means huge). He is a good friend and said that he would protect them no matter what. Unfortunately, he has a knack for getting into trouble. Like the time his pants caught fire. From a test oven. That was hilarious!…
I would recommend this book for ages 6+. All of you people that like adventurous books, this is the best one there is! 100% pure adventure in this book and this review is 100% true, and that’s a fact! Hope you like this book!” 10-year-old Library Reader
“This was a rather interesting book. I want to say it takes place around the early 1900’s-ish, but it’s somewhat confusing. What’s even more confusing is that it is a good type of confusing – it gives the impression that the book could happen anywhere, and maybe even anytime. That was a nice touch.
It is thrilling seeing John’s character develop from a cowardly wimp who is afraid of speaking up for himself into a strong, confident boy with an ingenuitive mind and a powerful voice. The characters he and Page encounter are wacky and lovable. There are illustrations throughout the book as well. I really enjoyed Ms. Teele’s narrative, and her distinct voice, as I read the book – I finished it in a short amount of time – not that it was “easy” but I found the words and story flowed.” Erik, 14-year-old Book Blogger
North American Publication Rights
Jordan Brown at Walden Pond Press has acquired North American rights to this book and a second. Walden Pond Press is a collaboration between HarperCollins and Walden Media to create the next generation of middle grade classics.
Steven Chudney at The Chudney Agency brokered the deal.