BEWARE OF TRAPS SET BY BIG MAN WITH BRAID is the message that the lead characters in Ellen Potter’s extremely smart, funny, and engaging young adult novel, The Kneebone Boy, leave for (they believe) a frighteningly deformed feral child prowling the woods on the edge of an English castle.

In Potter’s tale, the actual writing of the message is performed by Lucia Hardscrabble, the middle child and only daughter in a family whose mother disappeared years earlier, while her siblings look on. She is attempting to warn the Kneebone Boy of the book’s title away from traps another character has supposedly set in the woods in hopes of catching him. The fact that Lucia writes in Pixy Stix powder on a flat rock in the forest, using her finger, should give you an idea of how neat of a book The Kneebone Boy is.

As our reading of the book drew to a close, we were fortunate enough to be able to rustle up some genuine Pixy Stix for our students to try. In the photo above, you can see KevinM trying his first Pixy Stix ever! Naturally, we set aside a few Pixy Stix for ourselves so that we could try replicating Lucia’s message to the Kneebone Boy. We succeeded and you can see the result at the top of this post.

As we always do, once we’d finished the book, we asked our students for feedback. Had they enjoyed it? Which parts did they like? Which parts did they think could have been improved? The responses were uniformly positive, with Potter’s book earning high praise and faring well in rankings against the other books we’ve read this year. In the scan above, you can see part of Kevin’s feedback sheet.

Warning to those who have not yet read The Kneebone Boy: his suggestion for improving the story contains a major spoiler!