Itch by Simon Mayo
|Itch by Simon Mayo|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Great, old-fashioned adventure featuring a geeky reluctant hero and No Gadgets Whatsoever. Great science theme throughout the book and good pacing throughout.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: March 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013
Itchingham Lofte - cool name, cool guy, but he's Itch to you and me - is an element-hunter. Like many kids, he's a collector-magpie, but football stickers and manga-style cards aren't his thing. Itch is a science geek and he is trying to collect a sample of all 118 elements. Itch lives in Cornwall, where he has recently arrived from London, and his element-hunting doesn't carry much kudos at his school, where he spends most time dodging the bullies. At home, Itch has a tendency to formulate disastrous experiments and the latest explosion not only removed his eyebrows but also got his collection banished to the shed.
So far, so super-geek good. But Itch's life of domestic experimentation is about to change gear. His latest acquisition is a mysterious rock which, when tested, shows startlingly high radiation levels. Itch's rock is a completely new element with endless capabalities. And, as you can imagine, it's highly desired by some highly undesirable people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on it.
Itch is in danger - not only from the baddies, but also from the radiation leaking from his rock...
... and so the scene is set for this highly enjoyable science adventure from Simon Mayo.
There were some interesting hints about family dynamics early on in the book - the relationship between Itch's parents, why the family moved from London to Cornwall - that seemed to have been dropped or forgotten during the headlong rush of the exciting chase denouement. Perhaps they'll be explored further in another book about Itch, but I don't like it when my interest is piqued then spurned, so I was a little bit irritated. I also thought 400-odd pages was slightly too much for the plot. The earlier chapters move quite slowly and perhaps a modicum of fat could have been cut from them.
But this is mere carping. There is a great deal to like in Itch. Jaded reviewers like me see a celeb turning a hand to writing books for children and groan. But Mayo's writing flows well and manages to be both accessible, educational and entertaining. Two boys and a haggard mother (me) have read Itch hereabouts, and we all report hurrying to turn the page. So, writing - tick. We also liked the combination of an old-fashioned adventure sans gadgets and scientific coolness. Itch is a geek but a cool geek, you know? I quite fancy element-collecting myself. Lord knows, it would be more interesting than Match Attax. So, plot, theme and characters - tick. And the big chase that forms the last part of the book is as adrenaline-fuelled and packed with ingenuity and heroics (and even explosions) as anyone could wish. So - action, tick.
Recommended for all kids aged who think Brian Cox is cool - and even those who don't.
Science geeks will also enjoy the adventures in When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, itself a delightful riff on A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle that deservedly won the Newbery Medal. If you like your science straight, you should try Why is Snot Green? by Glenn Murphy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Itch by Simon Mayo at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Itch by Simon Mayo at Amazon.com.
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