Black Bottle Man

I read Black Bottle Man at the request of the author, Craig Russell. Published in 2009, this novel won the Gold Medal Moonbeam Award, was a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award, and the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award. It was also a selection of CCBC Best Books for Teens.


Set during the days of the dust bowl, Black Bottle Man, is a dark but intriguing tale with a beautiful ending. It’s a saga of a family torn apart when two women, desperate for children, make a deal with the devil. A box containing a bottle of a black inky substance arrives with instructions on its use. The potion works. Then the devil arrives.


When the deal is struck, main character, Rembrandt, is ten years old. The story begins and ends around his 90thbirthday, and is told in a series of flashbacks. The reader will learn about hobo signs, and suspend any disbelief in  magic. 


Until the men of the family can find a champion who can defeat the devil, the Black Bottle Man, they must leave home, and never stay in the same place more than twelve days. Otherwise terrible things happen.


There are many life lessons in Black Bottle Man. For example, bad news travels much faster than good news. Poor choices not only limit our future options, they can harm not only those around us, but also future generations. Evil blends in with normal people, and is easily and frequently underestimated. Most importantly, however, is the reminder that Satan cannot give life, and only family and love will carry us through. Only love can defeat the devil.


What Makes The Grumpy Book Reviewer grumpy?

  • There are a lot of words without spaces in between – some should be hyphenated, some not;
  • there are long strings of words without spaces in between;
  • inconsistencies in capitalizations;
  • further is confused with farther;
  • misplacement of the word “only” within sentences;
  • a few misspelled words.

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