Recently two different books I read featured unfeeling, tightly wound aunts. That is something I haven’t seen much of and so, for that admittedly feeble reason, I’m going to talk about both books.
In Stitch in Time (by Daphne Kalmar, Feiwel and Friends), Donut’s father dies unexpectedly, leaving her an orphan. Aunt Agnes shows up: all lumpy oatmeal, woody turnips, and the endless clickety clackety of knitting needles.
Kalmar is a wonderfully quirky writer. Early in the story, “Aunt Agnes sat at the table wearing a dress so full of flowers, so pink and purple, it was looking for a fight.” Too fun!
Aunt Agnes (Donut’s late mother’s sister) plans to take Donut back to Boston. Donut refuses. She will not leave her friends or live in a city. Out of the question. The reader is confident that Donut and her friends will convince Agnes that Donut must stay in their small, Vermont town. When that fails, Donut hides away in the woods in order to escape her aunt’s plans, but the result is not what the reader might expect.
In Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus (Dial), Micah’s Grandpa Ephraim is dying. All his life Micah has heard tales of the magical Circus Mirandus and the master illusionist, the Lightbender. Great-Aunt Gertrudis, on the scene to help nurse Ephraim, insists the tales are nonsense and proceeds to make Micah’s life miserable. But Micah believes that his grandfather will be granted the miracle the Lightbender gave him when he was a boy and his life will be saved. Only it turns out the miracle his grandfather requests is not for himself at all. Along the way Micah makes a friend, rides a gorilla balloon and comes face to face with death. Great Aunt Gertrudis is even more firmly in the evil stepmother mold than Aunt Agnes is, particularly because in the end we see that Gertrudis is petty and bitter, whereas Aunt Agnes is not.
Both books also have main characters with unusual skills and interests. Donut has, not only a passion for geography, but an interest and skill in taxidermy. Micah has a magical skill in making knots that tell stories. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I guess you’ll have to read the book to learn more!