Ice Angel by Charlotte Haptie

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Ice Angel by Charlotte Haptie

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Twelve years after the disappearance of their father, Zack and Clovis decide to defy the town authorities and continue his work. They sell delicious ice creams and sorbets by night, and distribute water for free to the thirsty townsfolk. Little do they realise what extraordinary and exciting events their actions will unleash.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340894187

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Rockscar City is controlled by the Scarspring family – or at least, its water supply is, which comes to the same thing. And the water which the citizens receive is stale and unpleasant, especially in the summer months. City authorities are obliged to spend vast amounts of money looking for new wells, but for some reason each excavation is sabotaged as soon as it is begun. So when Zack and Clovis decide to use the pure, sweet water from a secret spring high in the mountains to make and sell delicious ices, they run into all kinds of danger. Unless they're very careful, they will be made to disappear, just as their father did twelve years before.

There is a definite air of menace about the city. The police and authorities are all in the pocket of Steward Golightly, and it is surrounded on three sides by a vast wilderness where wolves, bears, lions and possibly even trolls roam free. Few people ever dare to travel inland, and apart from one heavily protected train, all comings and goings are via the sea. This creates a strong, heavy sense of claustrophobia, but the townsfolk are by no means passive victims. Many people tune in nightly to listen to Momma Truth on the pirate radio station, Barnacle, and they eagerly buy Zack's ices not only because of the delicious taste, but because doing so is against regulations.

As their nightly deliveries of ices and free water gain popularity, Zack and Clovis meet many extraordinary people, like Tiny and Mittens, who run the Midnight Café, Magdalena, who repairs scooters in a workshop beside the railway, and Frankie, who never suffers from a lack of enthusiasm or imagination. They are also joined in their work by Moe, a stray dog which is able to climb trees, and which seems to grow to three times its normal size when danger approaches. These allies become crucial when mystery is heaped upon mystery, and even greater perils menace them. Why are both Steward Golightly and Mayor Anshelm Scarspring so interested in Zack? Why is his mother so afraid of the two men? And why does Mr Meakin the mapmaker choose Clovis as his apprentice from all the hundreds of boys who applied?

Charlotte Haptie creates an extravagant, colourful world by means of a few well-chosen details. The ice cream van the two brothers lovingly restore has a figurehead on the front, as have all the vehicles in the town. It is a wooden statue of an angel, shot through with blue-green aqua-crystal, and it has a disconcerting habit of singing very loudly if a member of the family is under threat. An eccentric office-worker escapes the police by doing acrobatics on a bicycle, an odd boy wanders about at night searching for a lost cat, and a girl detective uses the script of a radio play to communicate with her client. Laugh-out-loud humour, heart-wrenching drama and edge-of-your-seat thrills abound in this truly splendid book, and all the while questions of freedom, identity and loyalty bubble away beneath the surface. People need to be warned not to start reading this book in the evening, because it is enchanted. It is quite impossible to put it down until you reach the very last page, and that you have to you read very, very slowly in order to put off the moment when the story is complete. It is quite possibly one of the best books you'll read this year.

Many thanks to Hodder Children's Books for sending this fabulous story to Bookbag – more please, as soon as possible! We also have a review of Granny Grabber's Whizz Bang World by Charlotte Haptie.

Further reading suggestion: Ellen Renner is another author who creates a whole world in her stories: try City of Thieves for another brilliant mix of adventure and originality. And the same can be said of the wonderful Neversuch House by Elliot Skell.

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