I hope you’ve got some stinky cheese accompanied by the sort of cracker that disappears quickly for today’s double dip review because we will be examining two middle grade titles rife with magic and malodour.
First up, it’s magic. We received Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap by Justine Windsor from HarperCollins Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Lucy Goodly is the new boot girl at Grave Hall, working for the cold, aloof Lord Grave. The other staff – Vonk the Butler, Mrs Crawley the cook and Violet the scullery maid – all seem friendly but Lucy soon notices that strange things are afoot in her new home – and not just Mrs Crawley’s experimental anchovy omelettes. There are moving statues, magical books and Lord Grave has a secret. Meanwhile, all over the country, children are vanishing. Could the mystery of the missing children be linked to the strange goings-on? Lucy is determined to find out…
Dip into it for…
…an original framing of magic in middle grade and unexpected twists aplenty. Lucy is in possession of a secret playing card that seems to be imbued with some kind of magical capacity, allowing her to win every game of poker she plays. After being inexplicably beaten by Lord Grave and subsequently required to serve as his Bootgirl, Lucy has plenty of time in which to ponder how her magic card could have let her down so badly. The author has plotted this story to ensure that the reader can never get too comfortable with the situation at hand before a strange new revelation crops up. I was particularly impressed with the mechanical raven (which of course is hiding a secret) and young maid Violet’s stuffed frog toy (being, as I am, a fan of stuffed toys). The illustrations throughout the book also liven things up enormously, and these, as well as the little newspaper clippings here and there, will enhance the experience of young readers.
Don’t dip if…
…you aren’t a fan of young children playing games of chance inside houses of ill-repute well past their bedtime.
Overall Dip Factor
This story is a bit unusual in that instead of the usual single major plot twist three quarters of the way in, there are several revelations throughout that throw Lucy’s cleverly thought-out theories on their heads and force her to go back to square one and re-evaluate who she can trust. The narrative style is light and slightly melodramatic and a tad silly in places, so is a perfect choice for young readers who like to mix mystery and magic with a giggle here or there. I quite enjoyed the ending, as it provides a bit of a launching pad into the second book in the series – although I can’t imagine what might happen next! I would recommend this one for fans of plucky young not-orphan stories set in a fictional past.
Next up, we have an Aussie offering from Alex Ratt (aka Frances Watts) & Jules Faber. We received The Stinky Street Stories from PanMacmillan Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The first thing I noticed when I woke up on Sunday morning was a mysterious smell…
When Brian (‘call me Brain – everyone does’) awakes to a truly putrid pong, he knows it is up to him and his friend Nerf to neutralise it. But that putrid pong is just the beginning, because life on Stinky Street is a riot of rotten reeks, awful aromas and sickening scents. So grab a peg (for your nose) or risk being flattened by the fumes!
…exactly what it says on the tin. This is a collection of four short stories featuring Brian, his friend Nerf, and a variety of antics involving stink, pong, funk, stench, reek, miasma, whiff and malodour. I am going to go out on a not-very-distant limb here and say that this book will definitely appeal more to your average eight-to-ten year old male lover of gross stories than any other cross-section of reading society. The stories are completely silly and accompanied by suitably amusing cartoon style illustrations and emphatic font styles to enhance the reading experience. The stories are all quite short and while the whole book could easily be read in one sitting by a confident young reader, unless you are a whopping great fan of stench-based narrative, it might be a good idea to take the stories one at a time.
Don’t dip if…
…you aren’t a fan of kid’s books that revel in being
a bit majorly gross.
Overall Dip Factor
While this was not a book that I particularly got much out of as an adult reader, I will admit to perking up a bit upon the introduction of the Sweet Street Girls in the final two stories of the book. This gang of girls (who live on Sweet Street – as opposed to Brian and Nerf, who live on Stinky Street) are witty, intrepid and unafraid of toil if it means turning the tables on the Stinky Boys. These last two stories gave me a bit of hope that there might be a not-entirely-stink-based direction for these stories should there be a second book in this series. I’d say this is strictly one for young fans of books in the style of Captain Underpants and Andy Griffith’s Bum books.
Until next time,