Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton

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Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A girl rescues a friendly bear from the ignominy of a career dancing, but of course there is more to it than that in this entry to the freshest, funniest and punniest of series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: September 2008
Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1405241793

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Welcome back to the world of Lamonic Bibber. And if you haven't come to this most singular of villages before, then, well, is pity too strong a word? However you will have to be prepared to leave the village far behind as this story is one of quite global proportions.

Lamonic Bibber is a lovely place to live, it seems. Forget what they seem to do to sacks of babies, they have Polly, the nicest nine year old girl in fiction, the best 6” tall gingerbread schoolmaster imaginable, and more. They do also have the titular character, and his friend, who start this book by putting the giblets they're scrunching through in the horrid butcher's down, and decide to make a fortune by forcing the bear that has just happened on the village to dance.

Of course Polly is too nice to let that happen, and so with the help of a rather overweight friend, sailing the world in a hot air balloon and in search of novel snacks, she tries to prevent the evil from occurring. Little can she predict the nautical adventures to come.

Those new to the series will revel in the sea-shanties, the odd recurring characters and the sheer bravura with which the art of story-telling over the centuries is bashed about quite wilfully. Those coming back for a fifth dose of wackiness will find no shortage of the delights we have come to know and love.

The whole series has, for me, been a sheer pleasure. It is of course targeted at the 7-10 year old age range, but I am sure that while they would enjoy them immensely, they might not be able to relish quite what is so distinctively fresh and bizarre about everything within these covers. As such it really is one of those books that, however embarrassing it might be to read on the daily commute, is a book for the whole family. The entire language is bent and twisted into neologisms, artificial phrasings and the most unusual metaphors (what might befall Padlock the bear is sadder than a little white onion being bullied by a gang of tough courgettes in leather jackets).

I have to admit it isn't quite the most perfect of purchases – there are the occasional paragraphs with no jokes in! – and it still isn't set out with value of money in mind, the amount of blank page we get. But I think there is a rule, or at least a Lamonic Bibber bylaw, that means I just have to award the book five whole stars.

Or perhaps it is just that the wacky humour is right up my street, and something tells me it would not fail to amuse you. This volume is quite self-contained, although the recurring characters and jokes (and the lemon meringue is here, it just takes a bit of searching for) mean that books one and two would be best referred to first.

I'm surprised I gave an earlier book less than five stars, but today I am not so churlish. This is a delightful volume, if bordering on the indescribable at times, and all five are certainly highly recommended. We thank Egmont Press for sending us a review copy.

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