Lydia's Tin Lid Drum by Neale Osborne

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Lydia's Tin Lid Drum by Neale Osborne

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A rather strange children's fantasy-adventure story that's overloaded with sweeties, sweeties and more sweeties. Be prepared to feel hungry, or a little bit sick...!
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 448 Date: October 2009
Publisher: OUP
ISBN: 978-0192755964

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Lydia is a ten year old girl living in Likrishka, a land that has been taken over by a maniacal leader, Stannic, who is a man made out of tin. Likrishka, and the surrounding countries, are all made from sweeties or food of some description, and in this world sweets can be extraordinarily powerful. Because of this, Stannic has stopped normal life in the countries he controls, putting all the adults into labour camps that are controlled by his army of robots, and shutting up all the children in dark, depressing homes, with no sweets and enforced lessons in cooking as he tries to train up more master chefs who can create the delicacies he craves to eat. Lydia manages to escape, and finds herself brought into a 'sisterhood' of other girls who are all on the run, following instructions to track down secret, rare and powerful sweets that are needed to overthrow Stannic.

This story is a strange mix, of sweets and runaway children and dragons and witches. It has flavours of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or 'The Wizard of Oz, and is a richly created fantasy world that the author has carefully mapped out and describes in detail. It's the sort of book I felt I ought to love, but for some reason I just didn't buy into the whole thing. It all felt a bit too contrived, a forced effort to create and sustain the endless, clever sweetie word play that somehow felt soulless. I do give the writer credit for having sustained his word play throughout such a long book. I constantly wondered if he would run out of sweets and foodie names part of the way through, but he just kept on going!

I think young girls might enjoy the sisterhood story that is going on, with each of the girls having a special skill or power, fuelled by their own favourite sweet, that comes in handy in the various scrapes they find themselves in. They often have to work together to defeat their enemies or find the rare sweet they need, and as they're acting alone, and often in danger, there is that whole 'kids functioning without adults' factor that children usually enjoy reading. I did think there were some interesting ideas relating to the girls and their abilities, although I struggled with their speech patterns as they all have quirky little ways of talking, sometimes not dissimilar to a toddler, that I found very irritating after a few chapters, especially since they're supposed to all be ten years old, not three.

Children who enjoy word play might like all the many, many sweet-related names and phrases, and enjoy spotting the various food-themed phrases and sayings that are liberally sprinkled throughout. The style of writing is unusual too, so those who like something out of the ordinary might find it appealing. I found it a little bit disjointed to be honest, but perhaps if you're lost in the story it wouldn't matter. There are places where he just throws statements together, for example Spears of jelly fire filled the sky. Glowed like candles on a birthday cake. Bright against the winter night. I actually quite like the phrases in that example, but most of the time I'd find myself sighing and wishing he would. Just write. In proper. Sentences!

As well as lots of foodie bits, there is lots of onomatopoeia, sometimes real, sometimes made up such as scrish scrash scrush or they could hear the shaking of a rattlesnake - chok-a-bikki, chok-a-bikki. It's an interesting device, but again I'm afraid that I found it a bit too much after a while. I think you'd have to be a real sweet-a-holic to truly love this book. Or just be able to overlook the constant treacle of foodie references to find the adventure story underneath. It's worth knowing that there are some action sequences towards the end that somehow don't manage to fall into the Roald Dahl category of being just a bit gross and instead I found them quite disturbing and think they might upset a more sensitive child. I think it might appeal to some younger readers, pre-teens definitely, although its size would indicate it's one for an older reader.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For a great fantasy adventure story you still can't go wrong with Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia.

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