The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes
The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes
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Annotation: Liberty Aimes has spent all of her ten years captive in her parents' crooked old house on Gooch Street. Her spry father,... more
Catalog Number: #6151317
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition Date: 2011
Pages: 224
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-375-83772-8
ISBN 13: 978-0-375-83772-2
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Libby Aimes' 10 years have been rough. She has never been outside her crooked house and is a virtual slave to her overweight mother, Sal, and her sly, smelly father, Mal, who has some sort of mystery going on in the basement. One day Libby steals her father's key and discovers the secret: talking animals and magical potions, one of which enables her to fly out the door. She is determined to make her way to boarding school and find her destiny, which she imagines to be entwined with her real name, Liberty. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Matilda, this has many of the elements children love feisty heroine, droll animals, lively black-and-white interior art, and beastly parents. In an arch, omniscient third-person narrative, Easton leads Libby on a merry chase as she tries to right wrongs, and the final showdown with her father is worth waiting for. Mal's cruelty is sometimes over the top, and the descriptions of Sal as "lazy" and a "blob" can be disconcerting, but starting with the delightful cover, kids will enjoy Liberty's journey.
Horn Book
After poking around her self-described "friggin' genius" father's laboratory, Libby finds herself able to communicate with animals--and in possession of "lifting soda," which carries her into the city. There she encounters a pigeon-cum-blue jay, a cat with nine "lies," and a troupe of circus performers. Occasional black-and-white drawings ground the story in its contemporary setting while preserving the tale's fantastical elements.
Kirkus Reviews
Her name is Liberty, but she's never been allowed to leave the house in her ten years of life, not even for school. Her inventor-father, Mal (French for "evil"), has imprisoned her and her obese mother so he (a "friggin' genius") can keep his magic concoctions safe from discovery. Libby dreams of escaping, and finally does when she drinks Mal's precious lifting soda and flies up and away. Liberty is a decent, brave and hopeful girl, providing a welcome counterbalance to the disturbing tale of her cruel childhood and to the "outlandish adventures" (involving talking animals, kidnappers and lion tamers) that sometimes feel too wacky. A philosophical, Snicketian narrator expounds on topics from chaos theory to bad apples, as readers are warned to beware society's abundant scoundrels. Liberty gets much of her frame of reference from books, so stories from "Hansel and Gretel" to The Little Prince help her navigate her wondrous foray into the outside world. Dashes of kindness and dollops of wordplay sweeten the oft-bitter pot, as do Swearingen's expressive, comical pencil illustrations. (Fantasy. 9-12)
Publishers Weekly

The life of Liberty “Libby” Aimes is straight out of one of the fairy tales she holds dear. To begin with, her extremely overweight mother, Sal, and rail-thin, scheming father, Mal, keep her locked in their decrepit house like Cinderella, “waiting on her parents hand and foot, dodging their insults like a beleaguered catcher.” Libby dreams of freedom and attending Sullivan (a competitive boarding school). While freeing animals from her father's basement laboratory, she manages to escape by air with a “lifting soda” and see the world on her own. Liberty is a mature 10-year-old and interested in the complete picture of life as a result of her love of reading. Her ability to communicate with everything from pigeons to circus lions (thanks to her father's “comprehension cream”) makes for a full adventure. While Liberty's trust in people and openness often brings trouble, her belief that “destiny wasn't something you accomplished by yourself” carries her through. The plot meanders and the narration is occasionally precious, but Liberty's quirks and warm heart are consistently charming. Playful illustrations top off Easton's (White Magic) gently humorous, highly imaginative tale. Ages 8–12. (June)

School Library Journal
Gr 36 Ten-year-old Liberty has never been let out of her decrepit house on 33 Gooch Street, and her massively obese mother, Sal, doesn't dare leave either. Only Liberty's dreadful father, Mal, a self-described "friggin' genius," comes and goes. As Liberty discovers one day, he really is a genius (the evil sort) and has invented, among other things, potions for communicating with animals and for levitating. Using these devices to escape, Liberty sets off on a search for what she feels must be heaven on Eartha boarding school called the Sullivan Schoolmeeting friends, dodging scoundrels, and having adventures along the way. Liberty's reactions to the quirky folks and talking animals she meets and the strange situations she finds herself in are naive and full of wonderment, but also commonsensical. While the circumstances are reminiscent of those in Roald Dahl's work, particularly the many intensely nasty grown-ups, the understated humor and friendly, imperturbable tone of the narration bring to mind the fantasies of Eva Ibbotson. The charming illustrations sprinkled throughout add immense appeal to this warm, delightfully odd fantasy. Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Word Count: 36,475
Reading Level: 4.1
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.1 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 130509 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.4 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q46927
Lexile: 600L
Libby Aimes


Once upon a time like now, and in a place like here, there existed a crooked house. The house at 33 Gooch Street was decrepit beyond description. If it could walk, it would limp. If it could talk, it would stutter. If it could smile, it would have rotting teeth. You get the picture.

The back of the house was surrounded by high concrete walls and choked by vines. The front yard had only a picnic bench split in two by lightning, and a row of thorny bushes that never produced a rose.

Insects had fled 33 Gooch, leaving behind their nests' empty catacombs, their webs' dusty strands. Only the mosquitoes came each evening, undiscerning blood_suckers that they are.
People also avoided the house. The postman delivered the mail at a trot. Trick-or-treaters crossed the street, dashing to number 34, the bright yellow house where the man handed out gummy worms.

That man was the only person who knew that inside 33 Gooch lived a family. He knew because he watched the house with great curiosity.

The family was a couple and their only daughter, Liberty, nicknamed Libby, after a brand of canned vegetables.

Libby Aimes was small with two long dark braids and pale skin. She owned only one dress, a gray one, with big pockets to hold her cooking utensils and cleaning supplies.

Although she was ten, she was not in any grade, like you might be. Her parents had never allowed her to go to school. They told the school officials that she would be "homeschooled." Usually, that's a fine thing. For Libby, though, it meant that she was locked up all day, waiting on her parents hand and foot, dodging their insults like a beleaguered catcher.

Some people have names that suit them exactly. Like Lilac, for someone who smells nice. Or Jock, for a boy who's good at sports. Libby's real name, Liberty, was kind of a joke. She was a prisoner in her own house. It was good that her parents always called her by her nickname. She had never heard her real name pass their lips.

Libby's mother, Sal, had grown up at 33 Gooch, but she never talked about that. What she talked about was how, because of Libby, she was now fat, married to a dud, and stuck in her life.

Libby never understood the connection between herself and her mother's extreme tubbiness. Her mother was fat, Libby knew, because she ate nonstop. Each day Sal consumed thirty-two pieces of fried French toast, seven pounds of fried clams, sixteen fried hot dogs, two fried chickens, twenty fried hamburgers, six platters of french fries, three platters of fried noodles, a pie (not fried), six ice cream sundaes, and a variety of other foods. Libby cooked these meals, so she knew the numbers.

The only thing she didn't cook for her mother was the buttergoo pudding Sal consumed three times a day. Libby's father, Mal, cooked it. Mal told Libby that if she dared to taste a drop, he would "teach her a lesson." It was something he often said, although Libby had yet to figure out what the lesson was.

As unpleasant as Sal was, Liberty's father was worse. Mal (which means "evil" in French) was thin as a thread, and so tall that he whacked his head walking through doorways. The constant stooping made him look crooked. Unlike Sal, Mal barely ate a morsel; he said that eating was a sign of bad character.

Mal was the only one who ever left the house. During the day, he sold insurance. "People are terrified of disasters," he said. "I remind them about landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, termite infestations, carpenter bees, bedbugs, bad guys, and wild goats on rampages. Then I sell them insurance."

Mal was crooked inside as well as outside. If a disaster really did befall one of his customers, Mal had tricks to avoid paying the claims. Libby had heard him numerous times, shouting into the phone he kept in his pocket. "Read the fine print!"

The fine print was writing at the bottom of contracts, so small you could only see it with a magnifying glass. It said that the insurance company was not responsible for any disasters that occurred between the days of Sunday and Saturday.

This made the policy worthless. Oh, Mal was happy when he got to tell some homeless or injured person, "Read the fine print."

Have you ever had a ripe apple fresh from the tree? It is delicious: crunchy and sweet. But once in a while, you bite into an apple that is mushy and vile. Parents are much the same as apples. Most of them are perfectly lovely, but occasionally you find one that is rotten. Mal was such a bad apple. He also smelled rotten, since he bathed only during months that had a Z in them. Baths cost too much, he said, but Libby figured he just liked being filthy and gross to match his personality.

In addition to making Libby do all the cooking and cleaning, Mal made her pry up the bricks on the back patio and then lay them again, even in the winter, to teach her a lesson. She had to wax his shoes, cut his toenails, groom his mustache, and brush his teeth; his breath smelled like a warthog's (at least, that was what she imagined).

"Do you know why you do what I say?" Mal asked Libby ten or twenty times a day.

She was too frightened to answer, but he always answered for her.

"Because I'm a friggin' genius, and you are a zero."
Some people, when told they're a zero, take it to heart and feel like a nothing. But Libby was too smart for that. She knew that a zero was a fine, round thing. Put a zero on any number, she thought, and it becomes more valuable.

Sal also called Mal "the genius." She'd say, "The genius is stinking up the bathroom again." Or, "The genius thinks we can pay the mortgage with ideas." For no matter how many people "the genius" cheated, Libby's family was always dead broke.

Excerpted from The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes by Kelly Easton
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Liberty Aimes has spent all of her ten years captive in her parents' crooked old house on Gooch Street. Her spry father, Mal Aimes, is a crook who sells insurance, while her overweight mother sits at home in front of the TV, demanding that Liberty cook nonstop, everything from fried clams and fried hot dogs to ice cream sundaes. Liberty's only knowledge of the outside world comes from the secret stash of children's books and fairy tales she discovered beneath the floorboards.
    One day, Liberty works up the courage to enter her father's forbidden basement laboratory. There she discovers a world of talking animals and magic potions. With the aid of one such potion, Liberty escapes into the world--and learns that she can talk to animals. She decides her destiny is to find the renowned Sullivan School, where she can live and get an education. Along the way, she meets a wacky cast of characters--some become true friends, but others want to kidnap her.


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