Chicken Mission: Danger in the Deep Dark Woods by Jennifer Gray
|Chicken Mission: Danger in the Deep Dark Woods by Jennifer Gray|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Bright and enjoyable characters go some way to disguise the slightness of this adventure for the under-tens.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: June 2014|
|Publisher: Faber and Faber|
Dudley Manor, Dudley Estate, Dudley is having a problem. The country pile is losing all its chickens to the evil members of the Most Wanted Club, and something has to be done. So they hire a sensei emu that can do headstands, in the remotest corner of Tibet, to train three unlikely but plucky – pun intended – birds to be secret agents. Amy, Boo and Ruth are not what you or I would choose as secret agents, but in training they can even defeat the dread Yeti – however clumsily. But how can they fare against real, murderous villains, in the grown-up world of high crime?
As I suggested to the right of your screens there, the characters involved here are the greatest joys to be had. There was room for more Boo and Ruth, at the expense of Amy – without making the book lose some of its urgency and snappy brevity – but the three chickens, chosen for their different qualities, are very enjoyable on the page. Amy with her courage is still the prime concern, but we also get to see the Most Wanted Club in action – the introduction to their chapters always slightly repeating the one before to show the routine of their comeuppance.
There are also the masters of the three adventurers – Professor Rooster, whose nemesis runs the Most Wanted Club, and James Pond, the mallard brought in to drum our heroines into perfect agents. This is part of what makes this book as strictly being for the under-tens, in that we have to absorb the fantasy of this world, where a chicken can be flown to Tibet on the back of an albatross, try kung fu training, and end up living in a secret lair with a computer and mite guns. I would suggest that is why the author has chosen to highlight character, so that the birds all respond in their own way to this bizarre world.
I responded to it by finding it daft, but pleasurable, to some extent. The structure is quite episodic, in that first it's one criminal that gets nabbed, then the others, then the Mister Big of the gang, but the flow of the book does succeed in reaching a sensible end, while leaving no problem in us expecting more in a few months' time with book two. This is no work of genius, but it will just about win the target audience over with its engagement with the birds and their scrapes.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
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