\ Young readers book *The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief* by Stephen M. Giles - Curled Up With A Good Kid's Book
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*The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief* by Stephen M. Giles- young readers fantasy book review
The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief
by Stephen M. Giles
Grades 5-7 240 pages Sourcebooks Jabberwocky August 2010 Hardcover    

Uncle Silas is dying - but before he does, he needs to select an heir to his vast ill-gotten fortune.

What secrets is he hiding, and who will he choose - will it be Adele, Milo or Isabella? None have heard from him in years, and for good reason; their Uncle Silas is a hateful, despicable man who only concerned with his own self-interest.

Why, then, are these three cousins each sent a check in the mail for ten thousand dollars and an invitation to come to the Sommerset estate to spend time with their uncle? Is it simply for him to select an heir, or is there some vastly more sinister reason Uncle Silas has for inviting them? The answers lie within the pages of the delightfully wicked and twisted, darkly humorous novel by Stephen Giles, The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief.

Red-haired Adele Fester-Winterbottom is the first of the children to get a letter from Uncle Silas. Her family has fallen on difficult economic times, largely due to Adele’s brilliant but evil and scheming mother, Professor Prudence Fester-Winterbottom. Prudence has figured out how (through “a series of rather painful and highly unethical operations”) to give tree sparrows “the appearance of a Wallop Lark - the rarest bird on the face of the earth and the most valuable.” She plans to sell “each feathered imposter...for a small fortune.”

The only problem with her scheme is that the birds developed “violent tendencies not normally associated with the peaceful Wallop Lark.” Their beaks and talons grow longer and become razor-sharp. They unfortunately attack, kill and eat, piece by piece, the man preparing the birds for transportation.

The university the Professor teaches for is sued by the man’s grief-stricken family. They, in turn, “sued the Professor for every penny she was worth and then some.” Adele doesn’t really want to go to Sommerset, but her mother threatens to send her off to a terrible, prison-like place called “Ratchet House:”
“It’s a special place for revolting little brats that nobody wants. Should you decide not to go to Sommerset then I’m afraid your father and I will be forced to send you there for the foreseeable future. You see, we have so little money left and the cost of raising a twelve-year-old girl is ridiculously expensive.”
Adele is introduced in the novel’s first chapter, and initially I was rooting for her to be selected as Uncle Silas’s heir (this was before I read further and learned that being his heir was quite the dubious honor). But each of the other two children are also in desperate need of money and the kind of future that a fortune could buy them.

Isabella is a thieving, conniving person who does some bad things, like pretending to be friendly with Adele and Milo and acting as if she’s trying to help Adele win her uncle’s favor and become the heir. Actually, she’s setting Adele up by convincing her to do things that she knows will make their Uncle Silas angry instead of pleased.

For instance, she talks Adele into cooking a specially prepared meal for Thorn, Silas’ vicious pet crocodile. Isabella suggests that Adele uses chicken, fully aware that Thorn is allergic to it. Adele does use it, and Thorn’s body swells up in reaction, and he gets very sick, and Silas gets angry at Adele, just as Isabella has planned.

But Isabella acts the way she does because that’s how she was raised to act, so the reader can sympathize with her despite how badly she sometimes treats Adele and Milo. Her father, Nathaniel Winterbottom, is a con artist who has brought Isabella up wanting only the best things that money can buy. Their expensive life style has a high cost. Nathaniel has taught Isabella that it’s okay to make friends with rich girls and steal from their families, if that’s the only way to ensure their own high standard of living.

They are running out of money when Uncle Silas’ letter arrives with the ten thousand dollars. Isabella becoming his heir would mean that she and her father could live like royalty without her having to steal any more money - at least not for a very long time.

Milo has the greatest reason for hating his Uncle Silas: it’s because of him that Milo’s parents died. Milo’s father, Julius, begged Uncle Silas for a loan to pay for the mounting costs of the medical bills for his pneumonia-stricken mother. Silas refused to pay, but did offer Julius a proposition: if he cleared twenty acres of land on a peninsula covered with pine forests, then he could earn the money he needed for the medical bills.

Silas neglected to inform Julius that the land sits atop of a volcano which promptly erupted, killing Milo’s parents. He escaped only because he was exploring a cave. Since then, he’s been raised by his grandfather, whom everyone calls the Maestro because of his musical abilities. They have little money, but Milo would much rather live with him than grovel at his uncle’s feet to be his heir.

The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief is a fantastic novel that everyone who is a kid at heart will love reading. Silas is despicably villainous, and you’ll find yourselves rooting for Adele, Isabella and Milo to foil his plans. If you like reading twisted, suspenseful, darkly humorous books, you’ll want to read this novel.
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