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Smudge's Mark
by Claudia Osmond
AGES: 10 & up
PAGES: 360
SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25
PRICES: HC US $16.95, Cdn $19.95
PB US $9.95, Cdn $11.95
HARDCOVER: 978-1-894965-69-9
PAPERBACK: 9781897476789

School Librarian Review UK 
This is Claudia Osmond's first novel, and I thought it was very derivative. But
children do love reading books that follow a trend, and I am sure they will
find it absorbing. It is aimed at pre-teenage readers and is humorous and
fantastical. It does also explore problem areas of childhood experiences, such
as how to deal with and overcome bullying. Simon is an orphan who cannot
remember anything about his childhood. Then, in a dream, he finds a key in his
pocket and begins to unlock some memories. His awareness of life and its
dangers begins to unfold.

"Simon lives with his deranged grandfather and a horrible housekeeper, Griselda, who punishes him by making him do awful things. He has no memory of his childhood or family, but starts having these strange and terribly beautiful dreams. One night, an angel gives him a special object that magically comes through to the real world with him when he wakes up. Griselda sends him off to an orphanage while his grandfather is out and he finds a portal into a world he never knew existed. Now he must fulfill his hero’s journey and learn what is real and illusion.
Simon (Smudge) is a smart boy who doesn’t know why he can’t remember his parents and why he ended up with his grandfather and the horrible woman who is supposedly there to take care of the house. Smudge is inquisitive and loves to draw, but when he sketches his drawings start to tell a new and frightening story. This is a great and richly detailed story that pulls you in from the first sentence until you’re on the edge of your seat biting your nails as you reach the epic conclusion."  Bibliophilic Book Blog 


"I really got into the story about midway through and was glad I stuck with reading it. With the way it ended it seems like this might be part of a series which would be great because I would love to get to know some of the characters better." - Through the Haze Reads, Book Review

The Magazine - Book of the Month

From Canadian author Claudia Osmond, Smudge's Mark is an original tale about Simon (Smudge), an orphan who can't remember his childhood. Through a turn of events, he is led into the fantastical land of Emogen, where he may just hold the key to saving hte world from evil. The story is narrated by Simon, a character you'll instantly root for as he slowly discovers who he really is. If you're looking for adventure, battles and excitement, give this book a chance


Best Book of 2009: Children's Books, January Magazine

"From the outset, Smudge's Mark 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, aka 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, 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."



5 out of 5 stars - "I absolutely LOVED this book! It was an original and altogether fascinating tale. I am completely enthralled by Claudia's genuine characters. Stories like Smudge's Mark remind me just why I can't get my head out of the children's section of a bookstore. I highly recommend it." - Goodreads Review

For an interview with Claudia and a 10-year-old reader check out:

CM Review: 

"Younger readers may enjoy this exciting fantasy adventure and Osmond makes it easy to imagine the world of Emogen." 


Review: The Novel Emporium


In Smudge's Mark, debut novelist Claudia Osmond, skillfully weaves together several popular and well-loved elements of the fantasy genre with unique facets of her own, resulting in an altogether fascinating read.

The setting was brilliant and certainly one of the highlights of the story. The story shifts from the gloomy neighbourhoods of a dreary town, to the eerie Grimstown Academy for Orphans and finally to the enchanting otherworld of Emogen.  

I was completely enthralled by Claudia's genuine characters: from the self-conscious, stuttering Gil to the 'he's-so-bad-it's-good' villain, Mr. Ratsworth. The dialogue felt natural, the characters' personalities were distinct and their gradual transformation as the story progressed was both convincing and essential to the storyline.

In regards to the story itself, I was hooked from the beginning and I especially liked how the story's moments of humour and severeness were balanced in relatively equal parts. My only qualm with the plot in general is that I felt that there were still several questions left unanswered and although I don't expect or particularly care for every single plot detail to be tied up in the conclusion of a novel,I was still hoping to have a few more answers.
I'm crossing my fingers for a sequel as the ending of the novel seems to hint at because I'm eager to learn more about the fates of certain characters and discover the backgrounds of others.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading a story from a new and remarkable Canadian talent. I am eagerly awaiting Claudia's next work because it's stories like hers that remind me just why I can't get my head out of the children's section of a bookstore.
Fantastic story, I highly recommend it!


School Library Journal

Gr 5–9—Fourteen-year-old Simon Mugford has a problem. Afflicted with a peculiar form of amnesia, he awakens each morning not remembering anything of his past, including what happened the previous day. But when his grandfather's creepy housekeeper enrolls him in the Grimstown Academy of Orphans, amnesia is the least of his worries. Simon and his two sidekicks careen from one misadventure to another with barely a moment to catch their breaths as they battle a wicked headmaster, venomous snakes, creeping vines, and a stone dragon. Unfortunately, a meandering plot, minor characters that are plucked from thin air only to disappear a few pages later, and the author's asides ("He used words that I can't possibly repeat without giving this chapter an R-rating.") are more than a little annoying. However, there is something about the story that draws readers in. Perhaps it is the pluckiness of the boy-hero, perhaps the magical elements beginning with Simon's mysterious past and his quest through the fantastical world of Emogen. Though it is unlikely that Osmond has created the next Harry Potter-like phenomenon, she may appeal to kids who have become addicted to fantasy and magic thanks to J. K. Rowling.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK


Musings of a Book Addict

"I loved this book... This was a simple and fast read. I read it in about two and a half hours. I just kept turning page after page until I found myself at the end. The author did an excellent job of keeping the twists and turns coming and even set the end up for a sequel. I am looking forward to reading it."


Review from Word of Mouse Book Reviews:



Early tomorrow morning for the first time in about four hundred years the total lunar eclipse will fall on the winter solstice and this can be seen by about 1.5 billion people worldwide and so can you if you want to get up at about quarter after three in the morning (if you are in the Eastern Time Zone that is).

This “blood moon” is a special time not only for astronomers, pro and amateur, but also with those follow the phases of the moon as a spiritual event or fear it cause misfortune.

There were many pieces of my initial curiosity answered when I read this ingenious story of fourteen-year-old Simon Mugford, an Orphan With No Options: or an O.W.N.O.

Simon or as he comes to be known as, Smudge, can’t remember what happened in his life prior to seven months ago but he does know he’s stuck in Grimstown with his extremely eccentric grandpa and his horribly hag-like housekeeper-slash-nanny from you-know-where and he doesn’t know where his life will lead.

When close to his birthday, Simon has a strange dream which unlocks some of those memories and leaving him with very tangible proof that this was more than just the average nocturnal stuff, he realizes that there is more to his past then he’s been led to believe.

Simon soon recognizes that he’s an important part of a dangerous plot to destroy Emogen, a beautiful alternate realm connected to Earth, and that he’s the one Emogen has been waiting for to save them from evil (no pressure or anything!)

This is a perfectly crafted fantasy tale for ages nine and up. In the same vein as Harry Potter or the Lord of the Ringsthis book  and is filled with action, mystery, adventure and great plotlines.

I loved the imagination in this story and the rather dark and creepy aspects as well. I also love the underlying story of friendship and loyalty and how unusual circumstances can make even your worst enemy your friend! I think this tale with both beguile and captivate any audience and would be a thrill to read out loud, chapter by chapter each night.

For Osmond’s first novel, which is pretty impressive on its own, but that she wrote it in a closet (“both literally and figuratively”) in a home with a husband, three kids, two dogs and a bearded dragon is as awe-inspiring as a lunar eclipse. She’s a self-described introvert who loves reading and writing  but I suspect that with a home that full and such a wild imagination, not to mention an active Twitter  handle and vibrant blog which includes interviews with fellow Toronto Kid Lit authors,  I don’t know just how introverted she can really be!

Just like the force known as Claudia Osmond, Smudge’s Mark, seems to have a personality all of its own: you’ll see what I mean when you check out the book’s website which cleverly includes character interviews and the first chapter.

Just beware, once you read it, you’ll be hooked! Good thing, Osmond is already working on number two as, like me, you’ll probably be eagerly waiting for more!

The other bonus for you dear, is that I feel an obligation to spread this tale around. A such I will gift away my own signed lovely copy to one lucky reader! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post on why you want to read this book and I will pick one reader at random!


A Book Long Enough

I don't read a lot of MG (middle grade) novels. If I read below my age level (not telling), it's either a young adult novel or I'm reading a story to my kids (see my post "My Top Five Books for Kids"). But when I do pick up a MG novel I find the trick to really, really, really enjoy it is to go inside and find that eleven, twelve, thirteen-year old version of yourself and let them read the book for you. Apparently my twelve-year old counterpart has a crush on a boy named Smudge (Simon Mugford).
Smudge has all the key ingredients necessary for my crush:
1. Shy with a mysterious past - always a great combination
2. Loyal
3. Courageous
4. Adventurous!
5. Older (than my twelve-year old self, not my real age self - still not telling!)

My younger self was easily caught up in Smudge's adventures; from being sent to a horrible boarding school by his grandfather's nasty housekeeper, Griselda, to discovering a portal to another world. Each adventure leads him closer to discovering the truth about who he is, what happened to his parents and what the key has to do with it all!