The Chocolate Factory Ghost (The Dundoodle Mysteries) Paperback – 5 Apr 2018
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A thoroughly satisfying and entertaining story, a mix of adventure, comedy and magic ... Delicious! (Books for Keeps)
Fans of How to Train Your Dragon and Tilly and the Time Machine will be hungry for this delicious mystery full of weird clues, strange creatures, malevolent relatives and lots and lots of SWEETS!See all Product description
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David O'Connell has a wonderful way with words. His choice of names, in particular, made me smile: the nearby town of Invertinkle, Billy MacCrabbie who insists on being called Billy 'Macabre' because it sounds more enigmatic, the Beast of Glen Bogie, and a fudge estate butler named Tablet. When the young trio find one of the clues, Billy surmises that 'it could be the mystical hammer of Throb, the god of headaches and family holidays... Legend has it that he lives on the top of Ben Doodle, along with Frij, the goddess of damp clothes, midges and leaky tents'. I love the atmosphere he sets in the old house; it takes me back to cosy times curled up with 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett, reading about Mary Lennox trying the various doors at Misselthwaite Manor.
Claire Powell infuses the story with beautiful patterns of dusty old books, Victorian tiles, gargoyles, bumpy cobblestones, wobbly bricks, uneven ironwork and mystifying machinery. Turning to each page with one of her full illustrations is like discovering treasure. Reluctant readers will find themselves propelled from picture to picture, and fans of illustration will want to keep an eye on this exciting talent. This is a great first Dundoodle book, and I can't wait to see what David and Claire get up to in their second story in this misty, magical Scottish landscape.
I really liked how this book blended the nonsense/fantasy aspects of the story in with the realistic family motions. Archie's a lovable protagonist with a wicked sense of humour, and the friends he makes were also great fun to read. They all had great chemistry with each other, and I especially loved their dialogue and immediate loyalty to each other. The illustrations of all the characters are wonderfully emotive and funny, perfectly matching the quirky tone of the book, so the illustrator definitely deserves some kudos here.
The plot is pacy and has a lovely sense of old-fashioned adventure quest stories, with lots of mad sweets-related clues to follow, doses of odd magic, secret passages and tunnels, and spooky old castles. I couldn't work out if I expected the ending or not, but I loved it anyway as it definitely puts an interesting spin on the mystery as the centre of the story, and leaves me with a lot of questions for the next books in the series. I also liked how well the author/characters acknowledged Archie's wealth as a privilege he wasn't fully aware of, especially when talking with others for whom money is a concern. This is pretty rare in kids books, especially with a big part of the plot hinging on a massive family inheritance, so it was heartening to see.
The only thing that bothered me about this book though were the rather . . . unusual names (Mr Hankiecrust and Loch Flikmaibogie being two of the worst) which I think maybe went a bit too overboard for my tastes. I liked the recognisably Scottish-ish placenames that were just a bit silly, but the ones the jumped into bodily-functions humour just really didn't work for me at all. I can see how such gross names would appeal to kids, and would be hilarious to read aloud, but a lot of them were quite repetitively gross without any cleverness to them, and it felt unnecessary and a bit of a distraction from the otherwise delicious treats we were immersed in throughout the story. There wasn't much of a theme to them that made them fit in the world of the story, and I think it maybe would have been better to stick with the silly/sweets theme for names rather than the snot-related grossness. I think this book had plenty enough humour without the yukky names.
But overall this is a really enjoyable story with lots of creative and adventuring fun! I definitely recommend this to Year 3/4 classes.