From the outset, Smudge’s Mark (Simply Read Books) is dense and meandering and at first seems quite incomprehensible. And I couldn’t put it down. If you think those things don’t seem to go together, welcome to the club and read on. I’m still not sure I understand how it happened, but I do know I’d read another book by this author.
One of the most powerful things about Smudge’s Mark is the strong and personable voice of the narrator, Simon, a.k.a. Smudge. “My grandpa was a wicked prankster,” Osmond-as-Simon begins. “Usually after working the part-time midnight shift at the mushroom farm, he’d make his way home to 49 Stone Elements Drive in the darkness of the early morning.” And the correct response would seem to be: who cares? At this point — the beginning — Osmond has seemingly done nothing to insure we care at all. And yet, oddly enough, we do. It is as though, with those first simple words, Simon waltzes into our lives as though he hasn’t a care in the world. And then, layer upon layer, we learn of all the dark places: all the things that are at stake and by then we realize that while we weren’t paying attention, Osmond has somehow — magically? — made us care.
Smudge’s Mark is, in its own strange way, a very good book. At story’s beginning, we meet Simon in a moment of quiet, almost introspection. By journey’s end, Simon has more or less preserved life as he knows it as well as Emogen, a hidden realm with a strong connection to Earth.
Smudge’s Mark is intended for older children — what the industry likes to call young adults — but I suspect it will find its place with the nine-to-twelve-year-old set. The book does not try to be either Harry Potter or Coraline, but young readers who enjoyed those books are likely to respond to elements of Osmond’s debut novel.