By Awnali Mills
There are seven children in the Problim family—each born on a different day, and each with their own unique gifts and talents. Toot, for example, (born on Tuesday) has different scented farts, which he uses to communicate with his brothers and sisters. Sal (born on Saturday) has a gift with growing things, and the twins Wendall and Thea (born on Wednesday and Thursday respectively) have gifts with water (Wendall) and locks (Thea).
Their adventurer parents have left them alone, and somehow their house in the swamp has blown up (it was probably Mona, born on Monday). Sister Sundae (born on Sunday) remembers that she has the deed to their grandfather’s house, and the children take up residence. Unfortunately, the town doesn’t want them there, especially their new neighbor, Desdemona O’Pinion. She’s sure that a treasure resides in the house, and she knows she can find it if she can just get rid of the kids. But their grandfather has planned for the children to find the treasure, and he has left clues for them to find. Only if they work altogether can the seven Problims locate the treasure and keep their house.
I love Natalie Lloyd’s work, and was so excited that she had a new book coming out that I put a hold on it before the library even got it. But, truthfully, I didn’t enjoy it as much as her previous books. I felt that her previous books were more reality with some magic thrown in for wonder, and The Problim Children was more magic with some reality thrown in. I had a hard time sorting all seven children out to start with, and couldn’t put them into a time frame to give my mind’s eye something to visualize. References to things like Velcro felt very jarring. Okay, so it’s modern day—and the community isn’t fussing about seven children very visibly moving into a house with no adults in evidence? I was sorely tempted to put the book down (nuanced farts really aren’t my thing), but I continued in hopes that it would get better.
Finally, the children sorted themselves out, and I just had to lean hard into my suspension of disbelief. The story didn’t resolve satisfactorily, and there are more books in the works. I’m invested a bit in the storyline now, so I may or may not pick up the others—it all depends on how I’m feeling when they come out.
That said, I can see how children would enjoy the book. Crazy children living without grownups are a long-standing trope in children’s literature (Pippi Longstocking, anyone?), and everyone knows that children find farts hilarious. And it’s not all hilarity—Thea and Wendall are trying to figure out who they are without one another, and Thea struggles with how to be brave when she’s by herself. Children will relate to her struggles. Recommended for grades 3-5.