THE WISH LIST Eoin Colfer's latest children's book, 'The Wish List', is one of the most unusual you will find. It manages to combine a deep and spiritual storyline with the funniest, most down-to-earth humour imaginable, and also has warm, sympathetic characters, who spring to life (or indeed afterlife!) from the page. The protagonist of the book is Meg Finn, aged fourteen,"bold but not bad". Her mother's death, her odious stepfather and a rough neighbourhood have all left their mark on her, the end result being that she is trapped into taking part in a burglary. However, the "job" does not go as planned; so much so, in fact, that by the end of chapter one both Meg and the leader of the break-in, Belch, are in the direst straits imaginable. Meg discovers that the keeper of the Pearly Gates is not as easy to con as the juvenile court. Fit for neither heaven nor hell, her aura an indefinite purple instead of the blue of the virtuous or the red of the wicked, she has no choice but to try to find a way to tip the scales in heaven's favour. The way involves Lowrie McCall, owner of the house she had tried to burgle, and the Wish List may be a solution for both. Unfortunately, they have reckoned without the evil, cunning and obstinacy of the Devil and his sidekick Beelzebub, for Meg's soul is of especial interest to Satan. His instrument: her ex fellow-criminal, Belch Brennan. Can all Meg's smartness defeat the immense powers of evil pitted against her? The story races along. Almost everything it touches, from the security guards at the national television station to St. Peter's mobile phone, is treated with the same dry humour, yet I never once found the scenario itself ridiculous. The earthly issues, as well as the unearthly ones, are of importance and relevance, in particular the way in which bad society and difficult family life can drag down a basically good person. Meg Finn is likeable as she is presented to us - we see her thoughts and her true feelings - yet it is fair to say that not many of us would feel any such empathy if we heard simply the bald facts of the break-in. This, for me, was a huge theme in the book: we should not judge someone until we know of the events and people who may have influenced them. Another issue raised in the book is the loneliness that can be experienced by old people, as evidenced in the life of Lowrie McCall. One character only, whom we do not meet in person, is never flippantly treated. Meg's dead mother is always tenderly spoken of, as though her love was the one blessing that Meg experienced in life. Whatever Meg's expressed longings, is what she really craves for to see her mother again? I cannot fault this book. Moving yet funny, intense yet easy to read, I would strongly recommend it for age 11 +. It will encourage tolerance, provoke shrieks of laughter, and - who knows - perhaps it may help prepare you for an unexpected hereafter!