The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery

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The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Owen's parents are safety freaks. They make him wear a crash helmet at all times and he's never, ever allowed to climb trees. But Owen's had enough - he's going to do something fun for a change. Something really, really dangerous.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 278 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Faber and Faber
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780571298426

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There are a lot of violent storms in the valley where Owen lives, and almost as bad are the bears that roam the countryside. Naturally, his parents decide there's only one thing to do: the family must move to the small village of Barrow. Here, everything is planned to keep children safe from harm. They're only allowed out of the house in pairs, curfew is at four o'clock and lights out is at six. And for children who don't follow orders, there's always the County Detention Centre, a grim prison-like structure presided over by the mysterious – and terrifying - Warden.

Owen's eleventh birthday, shortly after their arrival, is pretty bleak. He's been locked in his bedroom for safety, which mightn't be too bad except that it is filled with sandbags and chicken wire. Really filled – there's no room left for toys or posters or books. And all his food has to be flat, so it will slide through the gap under the door.

School's not much better. Being the new kid is never easy, and matters aren't helped by the fact that his Home-Time Partner is Callum Brenner. Callum says his nickname is The Hardest Boy in Barrow, and to prove it he shoves Owen into a patch of stinging nettles. Several times. Still, when Owen does a presentation to the class on his famous grandparents, the original Tornado Chasers, he finds he has suddenly acquired a motley bunch of friends keen to emulate their exploits. Not by zooming around the skies in a bi-plane, obviously, and there's definitely no question of walking across said plane's wings while it's in the air. But taking a photo of themselves right beside a tornado should be okay – right?

Ross Montgomery excels at creating worlds which are so zany, so well filled with the unlikely, the daft and the downright bonkers, that you end up accepting the lot. It helps, of course, that it's the adults who are one panda short of a zoo, and the kids who are (more or less) sensible and reasonable. Trouble is, one suspects that this state of affairs could well mirror reality - as seen by the young - way more than is comfortable for grown-ups. There are parents whose behaviour desperately embarrasses their off-spring (and we're not talking about Dad's Saturday Night Fever routine at the school disco here) and others of whom the best that can be said is that they mean well. Then there are the sinister ones, and the ones who really, really need to be in a lovely little room with padded walls. The difficulty is in working out which is which.

The premise of this story is, like in Mr Montgomery's first book, highly original. But the surprises don't stop there. Right through the book there are revelations and turn-arounds, and the final few pages pile on the astonishments until there's a serious risk the reader's eyebrows will remain permanently attached to his or her hairline. It's funny, it's sad, and it's exciting. Don't miss it.

Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door, by the same author, was short-listed for a couple of big awards: it's definitely one not to miss. And another writer who's pretty good at creating dopey-dangerous adults is David Walliams: try Demon Dentist for shivers and laughs.

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Buy The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery at


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