The Eddie Dickens Trilogy by Philip Ardagh
|The Eddie Dickens Trilogy by Philip Ardagh|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The first three books from Beardy Ardagh about the wacky exploits of Eddie and his completely bonkers relatives. I'm beholden to mention some quibbles, but just ignore those and buy this for the nearest passing 9-year old.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: August 2011|
|Publisher: Faber and Faber|
|External links: Author's website|
Meet Eddie Dickens. Aged eleven years old, he's only been allowed to be away from home twice in his life - once for about eight years on a boat, when a crate of luggage went to school in his place, and once for about three years. Now though he is being forced to move in with Mad Uncle Jack and Even Madder Aunt Maud, as his parents are very ill. But they're so deliriously bonkers, there's very little chance of him getting to actually move in with them. Who knows - he might even end up stuck in an orphanage instead?
The fact he does and that I've told you so is neither here nor there. Ardagh wilfully takes liberties with his plots, even claiming surprise during the third adventure enacted here that Eddie leaves for America. He's declaiming a lot, as usual, as well - especially with these being set in Victorian times, he is at liberty to interrupt himself and discuss anything he's mentioned, from the guns of the time (worry not, this is very family-friendly), the language of the time ("pitch black" becomes a small running joke), and his own storycraft.
I say family friendly rather than child-friendly, because I feel sure that however young these books are pitched, there are still suitable jokes for readers to discover on a second, third or further reading. They are hearty enough to make adults laugh, and I'm sure some are too subtle or mature for the younger end of the audience. Not all of them are brilliant - the 'pitch black' gag rather plods along, where this author is capable of Usain Bolt. But at least there is enough here on the comedy front to demand and invite turning to this book again and again.
So, do the plots suggest you keep this on the shelf for a full generation? Well, in my aged tetchiness, yes and no. The first tale, originally separately published as Awful End, is brilliant, simple, light and joyous. The second, Dreadful Acts, is wackiness embodied, and while being very, very funny, is such a roller-coaster of surprises and the unusual I was still remembering the more subtle and simplistic original. Which probably means the third, Terrible Times, strikes a happy medium.
Ultimately the contents here are designed to be too odd for instant summary, and they succeed in that. I could list the bizarre things Maud and Jack get up to til the (hollow) cows came home. It's just very enjoyable to see that Philip Ardagh was this funny at the beginning of his nonsense books career, and that his Grubtown series, with titles such as Trick Eggs and Rubber Chickens, was no late burst of inventiveness. And this book, with all three novels in, plus a brand new foreword, is such brilliant value for money, that however much I sometimes frown at Ardagh being too wilfully funny-peculiar and not funny-haha, I cannot do anything but recommend it.
I must thank Faber for sending us a review copy.
More low-brow, high-quality nonsense can be had with Agatha Parrot and the Floating Head as Typed Out Neatly by Kjartan Poskitt by Kjartan Poskitt and David Tazzyman - who I was going to declare was Andy Stanton in disguise until I found out it isn't.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Eddie Dickens Trilogy by Philip Ardagh at Amazon.com.
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