Book Review: The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda

Posted May 29, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

by Emily Rodda
Genres: Adventure, Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by Scholastic Press Format: Paperback
Source: the library
Also by this author: The Wizard of Rondo, The Battle for Rondo

First in the Rondo fantastical fairytale adventure series for eight-to-eleven-year-old middle-grade readers and revolving around the adventure-seeking Langlander family, and more specifically Leo and Mimi.

In 2008, The Key to Rondo won the Kids Own Australian Literature Awards (KOALA) for Older Readers.

My Take

Right off, I didn’t like Mimi. In fact, I wanted to slap her upside the head. Rude. Inconsiderate. Stubborn. Snotty. And then you learn more about her.

There are multiple levels in here that will stimulate the kids, especially if they’ve been reading their fairy tales. I love how Rodda has twined [so many of] them in. As for tension, there’s just the right amount for the young’uns and part of what keeps events smooth is Rodda’s use of third-person subjective point-of-view, as the narrator keeps us informed on everyone’s thoughts.

I do like the idea of the red hooks, and lol, the thought that clothes don’t want to be worn by someone who’d make them look ugly! I mean, really…!

The gingerbread men served at tea seem to foreshadow the world of Rondo. I never thought of them as pests before, though. Well, maybe to my waistline.

That ending was not what I expected, a nice twist on that “happy ending” trope, lol. Such a blatant — and great — excuse to keep going *more laughter* Seems I’ll have to pick up The Wizard of Rondo.

The Story

The music box has been in the Langlander family for centuries, and Leo is its new owner. And much more conscientious than his annoying, rule-breaking cousin!

It’s a rude introduction to Rondo, and worse when they hear the Langlander tales from Grandma. It’s not just a matter of rescuing Mutt from the evil queen, but freeing this world from what their ancestors have done.

The Characters

Young Leo Zifkak has a fascination for woodworking, that no one encourages.
Tony Zifkak, a scientist who prefers the comfortable refuge of his home, and Suzanne Langlander are his parents. Einstein is their black cat.

Marion “Mimi” Langlander, a brilliant violinist, is his least-favorite second cousin; her own family doesn’t know what (or want anything) to do with her. Mutt is Mimi’s persnickety dog. Aunt Carol and Uncle Robert are her parents heading off on vacation. Her siblings (and their spouses??) include Chris and Kwon and Martin and Monique.

Rondo is…
…the world around the music box. Crumble is the pie man. Posy is the flower seller. Officer Begood is the local copper. Old Jolly runs the Black Sheep inn. The vain Bertha is Jolly’s much-painted pig with hidden strengths. Seems Jolly took the art gallery owner’s advice (Monsieur Rouge-et-Noir) the wrong way, lol. Bertha actually works as a watch pig on Jolly’s brother’s farm, Farmer Jack Macdonald; Mary is the farmer’s wife. Dolly and Teddy run a toy factory. Master Whitebeard has had his wallet stolen. Pop sells balloons.

Freda is the dot-eating duck partnered up with Conker, a dot eradicator.

Rosebud is Jim the woodcutter and Polly (who used to wear a red hood when visiting Grandma)’s baby. They both live with Grandma outside the village. In the woods. Rufus is their dot-eating fox. Charlie had been Grandma’s fiddle-playing cat while Arthur had been her husband. Jim’s father had been a personal guard for the queen; Lily and Suki had been Jim’s sisters [well, Suki was more of a foster-sister] who married Walter. They’re all swans now. Seven of ’em.

Hal is the great wizard who broke the queen’s power…and broke his own as well.

Flitter Wood is where Tye, a Terlamaine (tiger woman), lives as do the Flitters, bright green little fairies, who live in the Nesting Tree. Hobnob is where Old Wizard Bing lives.

Dots are pests who happen to look like gingerbread men, right down to the two currant eyes and three currant buttons. Hidey-holes are sentient and provide you with, well, a hidey-hole when you need it. Mice act as messengers (which reminds me of Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap). Gaps appear to be tunnels through space that shorten the distance between locations.

The Blue Queen‘s power was broken and the Dark Time ended. Tom Spoiler is a sneak of a thief who is/was in league with the queen.

The Langlanders
Aunt Bethany Langlander had been the last holder of the music box. And it sounds as if she had a very boring life, dying at 94 in front of the telly. Mr. Higgs had been her gardener and handyman. Monty and Ida Langlander had been Aunt Bethany’s great-grandparents. Rollo is a long-ago ancestor who had brought the box back from his travels. Alice Langlander had played the harp and ran off to join a circus. Wicked Uncle George Langlander was the family disgrace. Uncle Henry had been the responsible one who drowned three days after he retired from the bank.

The Cover and Title

The cover is just plain scary with Tye looking like an evil cat warrior in black leather corset with studded cap sleeves and studded leather gauntlets, reaching for the sword at her side and leaning up against a huge tree, its ribbed gray bark providing excellent contrast for the bright green winged Flitters flittering around her. The title is in an embossed gold at the top with swirls curling around the end of the “R” and a scroll of leaves waving out from the tip of the “Y”.

The title is the true focus of the story, The Key to Rondo.

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