Review: The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Ugly Teapot (Book One: Hannah)
Author: Fred Holmes
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Release date: March 30th, 2016

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Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.

To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.

Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.  She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.

The Ugly Teapot is a cute novel filled with action and both a heartwarming and heartbreaking message about family and loss. The best part? We’ve got Hannah as our main character – a realistic 14-year-old girl experiencing grief after her father’s death and trying to cope with it. Though in the end I found the story a bit clichéd, I thought it was an interesting way to deal with the theme of grief and moving on.

The novel plays a lot with fantasy and magical elements. Sometimes it’s confusing because you don’t know if some things are real or not, like Hannah’s dog Griff being telepathic. The characters’ adventures are based on the tale of Ali Baba, which I believe is of Arab origin, and the setting is mainly Iraq. There was also an appearance of a creature from a Persian tale I hadn’t heard of (Fulad-zereh) and there were probably more details that I missed from different mythologies. It’s interesting to see this mix, but it’s also frustrating when trying to pinpoint where the elements are actually from. That’s probably just me, though, because I don’t know about them enough.

As I said before, our main character is believable and that’s always a big plus for me. Hannah wasn’t exactly a fearless protagonist. She was very brave, but she also showed her vulnerability, her innocence, and her fears throughout the adventure. This, along with her indisputable love for her father, was what made her so real and sweet. Sometimes I wished she did things differently, but then I remembered her age and I thought it was a perfectly reasonable way for her to act or react to certain situations.

“‘Taking a photograph is always a humbling experience,’ said her father, after Hannah had photographed everything in sight, and was waiting in the breathless twilight for the sky to turn the perfect shade of indigo. ‘You never achieve perfection, and only get one change at moderately good.'”

The cast of secondary characters was okay, especially Gus, who had a very distinct personality, but I wish we could have dwelt deeper into all of them. For example, the Magician, who was the villain, wasn’t very exceptional for me. He actually made the action feel out-of-place in such a magical adventure.

“What’s the point of having power, if one cannot use it? What’s the point of immortality if one cannot truly live?”

As for Ahmed, I would have liked to see know more about him because what I got was too little and disappointing. He says the next quotes to Hannah and maybe out of context they don’t sound bad, but then Hannah’s insecurities arise and I found them frustrating. It probably wasn’t the intention at all, but I think they perpetuate the notion than girls shouldn’t feel or show confidence. There’s nothing wrong with girls loving themselves unapologetically and it definitely doesn’t take their beauty away.

“My tutor says that only the truly beautiful do not know they are truly beautiful.”

“Your complete lack of narcissism is most attractive.”

The themes of the novel are mainly grief, family, and to learn to move on. I truly liked how the last two were dealt with. However, I was let down by how the plot ended up dealing with Hannah’s grief. This is what I found clichéd. It was something I expected and it made the ending feel too rushed.

Overall, it was a nice and touching magical adventure with many fun moments and also sad ones. Maybe it wasn’t exactly anything new for me, but the themes are universal and I think anyone can relate to it.


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