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The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon

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The disappearance of her husband is only the first of the mysteries Mrs. Carillon must solve.

149 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

Ellen Raskin

64 books709 followers
Ellen Raskin was a writer, illustrator, and designer. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She primarily wrote for children. She received the 1979 Newbery Medal for her 1978 book, The Westing Game.

Ms. Raskin was also an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dozens of dust jackets for books, including the first edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time.

She married Dennis Flanagan, editor of Scientific American, in 1965.

Raskin died at the age of 56 on August 8, 1984, in New York City due to complications from connective tissue disease.

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5 stars
545 (31%)
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427 (24%)
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84 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 209 reviews
Profile Image for Jeremy.
63 reviews3 followers
November 12, 2008
A favorite. This book progresses in just the right way. I was fascinated by the word-people when I first read it as a kid, and this time I could clearly see in my mind's eye how this story would read as a film! Oh how dramatic the Glub-Blub scene would be! Mrs. Carrillon kneeling on flotsam, Leon (I mean Noel) sinking into the ocean, "Noel glub C blub all. I glub, new..." And WHAM! Yardarm to the noggin.

It's such a sweet story of people who find they loved each other all along.

Additionally, the lessons learned from the story helped me against bullies in junior high once, when I was chased from the lunchroom across the street to the seminary building by some obnoxious girls who were asking me what kind of underwear I wore. For a shy shy kid, this was too much to bear, and I ran rather than answer them. However, just as I got to the front door of the seminary building I remembered Mrs. Carrillon's personal preference, and turned to face the girls to repeat one of her best lines, "I don't wear underwear - I wear purple-flowered bathing suits!"

And, leaving the two girl bullies with their jaws in the road, I flounced into the safety of the building. Thank you Mrs. Carrillon. Thank you Augie Kunkle. Grape Mrs. Carrillon and GRAPE YOU!
Profile Image for The Dusty Jacket.
286 reviews26 followers
September 21, 2020
"It’s a funny thing about names. Some are long, some are short; some mean something, others don’t; but everyone and everything has one, or two or three."

Caroline “Little Dumpling” Fish Carillon has quite the backstory for someone so young. She was married at five years old (business is business, after all), orphaned at twelve, and widowed (maybe…no one is quite sure) at nineteen. Throw in twins, an unfortunate incarceration, a cross-country manhunt, and a watery clue that seems practically insolvable and you have a mystery for the ages! With the help of the glub blubs, Mrs. Carillon is quite sure that she’ll be able to find Leon (I mean Noel).

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) is the perfect read for any young detective. Raskin provides readers with plenty of clues along our heroine’s journey of finding her lost love. While her Newberry Medal mystery The Westing Game can easily be enjoyed by older readers, this book is clearly written for a younger audience. The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) provides pages and pages of slapstick fun and silly good humor. It’s delightful in its utter absurdity and endearing in its over-the-top implausibility. Readers are encouraged to sleuth along with Mrs. Carillon and her twins—Tina and Tony—and helpful tips and hints make for a totally immersive reading experience.

Throughout Raskin’s book, Mrs. Carillon is forever searching for what she thought she wanted. Endlessly chasing an idea that she thought she needed. American author Meg Cabot—best known for The Princess Diaries—wrote “Sometimes what you want is right in front of you. All you have to do is open your eyes and see it.” Ironically, it was only after Mrs. Carillon stopped chasing a dream that she was able to find her heart.
Profile Image for Runa.
607 reviews34 followers
September 6, 2009

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) is an amazing book that can be equally enjoyed by adults and children alike. Adults reading the book see more layers to it than the kids, but the read is just as mysterious and enjoyable (although the idea of marriage at that young an age will be a squicky one). If you have read Ellen Raskin's Westing Game, and even if you haven't, this is a book you really need to get your hands on. I've read some of her other books, but absolutely nothing compares to these two classics. This one comes fully equipped with hysterical characters and plenty of footnotes. It's adorably quirky without trying too hard. Every thing, every hilarious incident, is narrated casually and in a way that just makes it all funnier. Everything is so tantalizingly cryptic, and at times, downright confusing, but it's a huge relief when everything really falls into place and you realize that every event that was narrated is somehow connected to the big picture scheme. Other than all that, it's a very readable book. The chapters are divided up into small sections and just style-wise, it's an easy but really worthwhile read. It really emphasizes the reason why we love Ellen Raskin so much--plot twists and surprises everywhere! The other really nice thing is that the mystery is not at all obvious. Nobody would ever suspect the outcome, but it's such a compelling one! It's got snark, puzzles, humor, definitely not just a kids' book. It is also really nice, at the end, to get closure from all of the characters, so I do appreciate it when authors like Raskin do things like that.

Rating: 5/5
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,317 reviews399 followers
September 19, 2016
Oh I wanted to like this more than I did. But the puzzles made little sense, with too many red herrings and other not-helpful hints, and the mystery made not much more sense. And the HEA ending? Nah....
Profile Image for Kate.
762 reviews115 followers
July 23, 2007
Amusing, lighter fare from Raskin. The puzzle mystery in this one revolves around solving the "glub-blubs," that is, filling in chunks of a sentence that were swallowed by the ocean as a mysterious person drowned while trying to communicate a secret message to Mrs. Carillon. She is assisted in her detecting (solve the riddle, find her missing husband) by twins Tina and Tony and the gentle Augie Kunkel. Charming.
Profile Image for twicebaked.
442 reviews
June 26, 2021
That ending was sad and a bit unsatisfying, but sweet.

(Only thing I hated was , that was disappointing.)
Profile Image for Kathryn.
142 reviews
February 4, 2010
Ellen Raskin was one of my favorite authors when I was in elementary school. I kind of thought her books would get less disturbing as I got older, but...no.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
63 reviews3 followers
November 12, 2008
A favorite. This book progresses in just the right way. I was fascinated by the word-people when I first read it as a kid, and this time I could clearly see in my mind's eye how this story would read as a film! Oh how dramatic the Glub-Blub scene would be! Mrs. Carrillon kneeling on flotsam, Leon (I mean Noel) sinking into the ocean, "Noel glub C blub all. I glub, new..." And WHAM! Yardarm to the noggin.

It's such a sweet story of people who find they loved each other all along.

Additionally, the lessons learned from the story helped me against bullies in junior high once, when I was chased from the lunchroom across the street to the seminary building by some obnoxious girls who were asking me what kind of underwear I wore. For a shy shy kid, this was too much to bear, and I ran rather than answer them. However, just as I got to the front door of the seminary building I remembered Mrs. Carrillon's personal preference, and turned to face the girls to repeat one of her best lines, "I don't wear underwear - I wear purple-flowered bathing suits!"

And, leaving the two girl bullies with their jaws in the road, I flounced into the safety of the building. Thank you Mrs. Carrillon. Thank you Augie Kunkle. Grape Mrs. Carrillon and GRAPE YOU!
4 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2012
I want to give it a 5 but that's because it was a personally transformative book. The transformation, honestly, had way more to do with the context of my life than it did the book. That's not to say it wasn't an awesome piece of lit to put in the hands of a fifth-grade reader in the 1970s. It was recommended to me by my 5th grade reading teacher. Prior to this, I was only interested in reading non fiction or fiction that read like an historical account. This book gave me a great big taste of, "Huh?" The goofy plot twists based on a child-bride soup heiress were intoxicating. After that, my reading choices broadened, significantly.
Profile Image for Steve.
32 reviews8 followers
October 25, 2007
I first read this when I was in 6th grade (I'm 36 as of this writing and still read this every once in a while!). Titles are often times the first thing that grabs me when I browse for a book, and this title was no excecption!

This is the first fiction book I read that included unusual footnotes and typography, leading to admirations of David Foster Wallace, James Joyce, and other experimental writers. The fascination with words and symbols were also a plus for me. It's a fast and funny story that I have been waiting for the movie adaptation of since my first read!
Profile Image for Bart Everson.
Author 5 books32 followers
September 17, 2019
As a child and thought it was one of the strangest books I'd ever encountered. Years later, I struggled to remember the title. I certainly didn't know the author's name. I couldn't remember many particulars, except something about drowning, but mostly I remembered it had all these crazy footnotes. I despaired of ever figuring out what this mystery book was.

Then, a couple months ago, some details came back to me: Leon. Noel. A red mustache. A quick internet search, and there it was. Author? None other than the famous Ellen Raskin! My daughter had just read The Westing Game, and she even forced me to read it aloud to her.

Soon I had a used copy of The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon, and we read it aloud as well. I was delighted to find it just as quirky as I remembered. My daughter liked it too. The illustrations are quite fun and were done by Ms. Raskin herself.
Profile Image for Hannah.
631 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2019
This book wasn't as good as the Westing Game. However, Ellen won the Newbery for Westing so there's that. This book was done earlier and she might have still been getting her "sea legs". (Hilarious, if you've read the book!)

Leon and Caroline are married at the age of 5 in order to ensure an alliance between their families. Leon is promptly shipped off to boarding school and they only communicate via letters until they are nineteen. They meet in Florida and go on a boat ride. The boat is immediately capsized and as Leon (who has changed his name to Noel) flounders in the water, he relays a mysterious message to Mrs. Carrillon.

When she wakes in the hospital, Noel is gone and she must embark on a mission to find her missing husband. Along the way, she meets new friends and never changes her dress style so that Noel will always be able to recognize her.

This book is great for kids. However, it's a mystery with some clues that even I got annoyed with. No, I'm not saying my age, but suffice to say, I'm not a child. There's some great wordplay that will teach kids about English and they'll get to solve a mystery. And I think the characters are very likeable.

I really enjoy this author and will probably try and read some more by her.
Profile Image for Storm.
156 reviews7 followers
November 23, 2020
Continuing on with reading Ellen Raskin...

She really is great. These books are very different from every other children or mystery novel that I know. Even though they were written in the '70s, the style is unique which makes them fresh for me.

This particular book had a solid mystery. I guessed most of the big ideas but there were still several small details revealed at the end to keep me guessing. There was a lot of word play and adult targeted humor thrown in as well. It had a fun cast of characters, lovely found family, and an interactive use of footnotes.

It did drag a little in places, which is sad for such a short book.

Oh and the note/ joke about not writing in books will be ignored. I write in mine! Sue me!
Profile Image for Kayla.
383 reviews12 followers
April 24, 2019
I have been trying to figure out what this book was called for years- I could only remember the cover, and that I checked it out multiple times in grade school. I was looking up what other books Ellen Raskin wrote, and there it was!! It was as zany as I remembered, and it was fun to read through it again!
Profile Image for Mary Anne.
616 reviews15 followers
January 25, 2019
Great fun to read! It is too much fun to be just for kids.
Profile Image for Steve.
293 reviews4 followers
February 19, 2018
I read this as a kid a BUNCH of times and thought it would be fun to read it again. The puzzles are fun but I don't think the book holds up all that well for this day and age. Still, I imagine a kid that like solving puzzles might like it. Funny, I didn't remember much of it at all or the solution.

I would rate this as either a 3 or 4 for a kid and a 2 or 3 for an adult. Fun book but I bet there are more modern takes on it now (and also since society has changed greatly since this book was written). But, back in the day, this was a great book for me.
Profile Image for Jodi.
577 reviews49 followers
May 17, 2013
I just finished reading this to my boys. They loved it!!! We ended up
reading much more than my usual one chapter because we were all enjoying
it so much. It had been years since I read it and I had forgotten the
plot, so I was as eager as the boys to see the puzzle of Leon solved.
I will have to definitely read more Raskin with them.
Profile Image for Norain.
293 reviews24 followers
December 18, 2016
The writing style does not work for me but I do think the mystery is rather good, albeit having some cumbersome explanation in the middle. As a whole it will probably captivate a younger reader so for once even though I usually think adults should be able to enjoy a good middle grade book, I think young audience will appreciate this book more than I do.
Profile Image for Joy.
338 reviews8 followers
August 25, 2016
Read and re-read the library's copy of this, over a couple of years, until I managed to work out all the answers on my own. (Yes, I'd checked them already, but I wanted to see how to get from point A to point B on my own.)
Profile Image for A.J..
107 reviews6 followers
February 23, 2021
A silly, fun children's mystery book that includes travel over the U.S. Honestly I'm not even sure how this ended up on my virtual tbr pile, but I think it had something to do with seeing it somehow in the same conversation as Where'd You Go, Bernadette. Well, it's not anything like that book, but at the time I must've thought a mystery with the same level of writing as the Bernadette book by the author of the loved Westing Game might be something I want to check out.

The set up is a bit absurd. Two poor midwest farmer families strike it rich by inventing pomato (potato-tomato) soup. One family has a girl (the protagonist of the story) and the other a boy (Leon), and because of disagreements they marry them at around six years old. The parents all die in a freak factory accident leaving the married children orphans. Leon is permanently sent away to grow up in private schools while the girl grows up with a mean nanny, though the two children share very occasional postcards.

Leon is reclusive and has changed his name to Noel, but after they're of legal age agrees to meet his wife on a sailing excursion to discuss things. Unfortunately there's an accident and the girl is knocked unconscious just as she half hears a few last words from Leon. When she wakes he's disappeared without a trace and she determines to spend her life trying to decipher his final words to her which she is sure was an important message and find her lost husband, and because of the soup fortune money can basically do as she pleases. She ages fully into womanhood and also ends up adopting two sibling orphans she meets along the way and this little family travel from place to place in search of the elusive Leon (I mean Noel).

The mystery is actually hard and I, an adult (just in case you weren't sure), didn't solve it, and I think it'd be a very rare child who did. But also, it's obscure and not clearly presented almost as if that aspect were secondhand to what's happening with the main characters at any point in time.

I do remember reading the excellent Westing Game when I was a child. I absolutely loved it, but even though my young mind could sometimes solve a Christie mystery I did not solve the Westing Game one before the reveal, and I remember being disappointed I hadn't put it all together. Decades separate my readings of that and this but after all these years this book gives me a slight reassurance that perhaps that mystery wasn't as solvable as I'd figured it had to have been when I read it. I mean, if I couldn't solve this children's mystery by the same author when an, ahem, grown-ass man then not being able to solve that one as a child makes much more sense. However my recollection still makes me think that one seemed more solvable in the end, but I'll take my reassurances where I can find them.

I don't think this is on anywhere near the same level as The Westing Game, but it's still a good enough little read if you're in the mood for a random children's mystery, or you know (or are) a child interested in mysteries. Just be aware (or warn the child) that the mystery is hard so don't worry or be frustrated if not able to solve it ahead of time. I think the book is notable for including travelling around the U.S. which could be educational for a child reading it. Altogether, sometimes the book is too silly for words but other times it was funny enough to elicit chuckles from me.
Profile Image for Renaissancecat22.
89 reviews11 followers
March 26, 2020
The real mystery was the friends we made along the way...

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) is a relatively charming and very compelling mystery for young readers. It's not quite at the level of The Westing Game but it's also not trying to be. There's a mystery to solve but the story is more interested in the characters doing the detective work. Personally, I picked up on from the very beginning but the rest of the mystery is not something you can solve. This is more of a story where you have to wait to see how things unfold rather than a puzzle where you have all the pieces. The prose is very readable. It's not the sort of book you linger over and, combined with the mystery, that should make it a good book for younger readers who want to train themselves to read more quickly.

As with a certain kind of children's book, the characters fall somewhere between one-dimensional and fully fleshed out. They're certainly idiosyncratic and many of them fall into particular character types but they don't feel like flat cartoon archetypes either. It's a good balance for a book that is this short.

Tina was the most interesting character to me. Raskin created a young female character who was not likable but not villainous either. She was impatient but smart. She was jealous and insecure and petty. She was not afraid of wanting things and pursuing them. She insisted she would be a "real doctor" and became one.

There's also a socialist bent running through the story. If you were disappointed in the problematic mess of The Tattooed Potato, this book has a much clearer (if simplistic) idea of egalitarianism and acceptance of everyone's personal eccentricities and value.
Profile Image for Juny.
201 reviews11 followers
September 12, 2018
Holy Guacamole! I don't even know what to say except, WOW!
Ellen Raskin just has this quirky magic in all her books! I love her odd but fitting names for everyone such as Mrs. Baker (took me a bit to get that one), Mr. Banks and so on. And of course her and her struggling artists. Tina also reminded me of Turtle in Westing Game.
This book was kind of sad. It was also happy. It just sort of drew me in from page 1 and then half way through I was wondering why the heck this book wasn't wrapping up when KABOOM! Everything was happening at once. They solve the case! Not only that but the case was different than what we were led to believe throughout the book.
Some of their logic doesn't make sense, but it's fine because it's by Ellen Raskin. It is truly entertaining. This book also made me laugh out loud a few times.
And might I say that every little thing ties together. Something mentioned that might seem random is a key part of the plot or something that comes up later. I always get this feeling whenever I have read the Westing Game, The Tattooed Potato and other Clues, and this that when she mentions a name it is out of the blue but then later that name is brought up again and I have a hard time recalling when she had mentioned them before. That is why her books are such great mysteries, they are hardly predictable because they are so outrageous but at the same time not.

Though the Westing Game remains my all time favorite, if you loved the Westing Game and The Tattooed Potato and other Clues then you should definitely read this, it is short but that is part of what makes it so great.
Profile Image for Bobbi Lewin.
41 reviews4 followers
July 7, 2019
When I was about ten years old, my mother took me to the public library as she did most every week. On this occasion, I couldn't find a book I was interested in, so Mom asked the librarian to help me. She suggested "The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)". I found the book to be hysterical; I checked it out multiple times.

As an adult, I've wondered what that book was that made me laugh so hard, and knowing I have a very silly sense of humor today, I was curious if the book would still make me laugh. Kind of trying to figure out if who I am today has any relation to that little girl from decades ago. All I could remember was the main character had a thing for purple flowers (I remembered it as violets), she and her children went on an adventure to find the father. There was another man involved in the search.

I had searched for years unsuccessfully, but then the folks on the GoodReads What's the Name of That Book??? group found it for me.

Even though it is a children's book, I was hoping for some laugh-out-loud moments or at least some recognition of my silly self. Sadly no. Still, it was an entertaining read. I'm hoping I can talk my ten year old granddaughter into reading it so I can see if she thinks it's as funny as I did. I'll update this review if that happens.
583 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2019
This was the first Ellen Raskin novel I read, back in the 4th grade - and while I've read her others several times since, for some reason I'd never gone back to revisit this one. I'm impressed that 9-year-old me enjoyed this as much as he did, because it's a weird one - full of weird details and adult concerns and references that must have flown right over my head. And yet, I can also see why I loved it - at its core is a very clear mystery (as evinced by the title) with a raft of quirky elements and a remarkable ability to keep the reader on their toes. The whole thing is silly but never superficial - somehow, the actual pain and pathos of the characters shines through the absurd details (an explosion at a soup factory; a grown man who spends his life in a football helmet; a running gag about being unable to tell the difference between seals and sea lions). Raskin started out as a book designer, and this book is beautifully designed - not only the presentation, but the narrative itself, with its emphasis on code-cracking, investigative rigor and other elements of process. It's also one of the great unsung weird-old-NYC books - it features a riot at Bloomingdale's and a bunch of East Village artists picketing the Women's Detention Center! Anyway, I'm rambling - it was fun and satisfying to revisit this classic after nearly 35 years, and I'm sure I'll be revisiting it again!
Profile Image for Matthew Hodge.
605 reviews22 followers
August 2, 2018
This was Ellen Raskin's first novel so I wasn't sure what to expect. (It's her fourth and final novel, The Westing Game, that made her famous.)

It's a quirky and surreal tale of a woman who spends her entire adult life searching for a man named Noel (or Leon) who drowned (possibly) in Florida.

The bulk of the book consisters of Mrs Carillon and her two adopted twin orphans, Tony and Tina, trying to make sense of the last words of Leon/Noel. And because his last words were half-uttered underwater, they essentially have a classic 'fill in the blanks' word puzzle to solve.

Which brings us really to what people love about Ellen Raskin. Even though she was writing before computer games - and even Choose Your Own Adventure books for that matter - her books are puzzles. She invites the reader to solve the mystery as they read and that's what makes them so much fun.

My 10yo had a grand old time listening to it.
Profile Image for Sophie A. Katz.
91 reviews1 follower
November 21, 2022
What a wacky book! I mean that in a positive way. A friend recommended this book to me when she learned that I loved The Westing Game, but that set my expectations in the wrong direction, frankly. The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) is a lot sillier than Westing and practically requires that the reader not take it seriously at all. I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had discovered it as a child. Speaking as an adult, it's a quick read with a few laugh out loud moments and other moments that I could tell were supposed to be funny but didn't hit right for me. It has a similar quirkiness to The Phantom Tollbooth or just about anything Roald Dahl ever wrote. Yes, there's a mystery, and it was fun to flip back through once I learned how it ended and find all the hints that Raskin left for me. But I don't feel any need to ever pick it up again.
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