Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher

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Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: A charming magical tale of food, villainy and friendship set in Paris.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-1408805053

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This is not a stereotypical fantasy. Madeleine, the heroine, is not required to find mystical items or defeat evil beings in order to save the world. And although she lives in a world where magic exists, she does not have any other-worldly powers herself. She is quite simply, despite her young age, an extremely good cook. Mind you, this quaint little book is set in the centre of Paris, so to be gifted in la gastronomie probably does count as magic - the French see these things differently, after all. No, she is just a little girl who is bullied at school by someone who seems determined to humiliate and hurt her by preying on her natural shyness. The bullying is skilfully done, by emphasising Madeleine's gift for creating wonderful meals and turning it into a reason to pity her. Fortunately for our heroine, she is noticed crying in Notre-Dame Cathedral, and is comforted by a kindly sweet-shop owner, Madame Bonbon. But is this woman really so kind? And doesn't Madeleine know she shouldn't take sweets from strangers?

Even before you open this book you will be enchanted. It is a tiny book (smaller than A5) and the cover is exquisite, its colours reminiscent of marshmallows and strawberry creams. The illustrations all through the book are delightful, in fact, and Sue Hellard deserves warm congratulations for adding so much to the story. You will want to give this book as a gift, simply because its elegance and charm will make you think of a modern-day miniature. It has an old-fashioned feel to it, from the secret group of philosophers, artists and musicians who watch over Madeleine (not very efficiently in this case, alas) who recall the café society of Sartre and his friends, to the wonderful, dusty little shops full of hidden treasures which can still be found today all over the Îles. The descriptions of the streets, shops and foods evoke a charming, gentler time, where taste and beauty are not simply an option, but are – must be – a way of life.

The story is simple, and will touch even very young readers, but the writing has an uncompromisingly adult tone reminiscent of Lemony Snicket's An Unfortunate Series of Events - but without the self-conscious, look-at-me quirkiness. The author does not insult his readers by keeping to words within their experience: rather, he expects them to reach high to fully enjoy his book. All the characters, for example, are named after foods, and their names reveal something of their characters: Madeleine's teacher Madame Poulet, for example, does look rather like a plump little hen, and she is just as silly. The Incredible Edibles shop run by Madame Pamplemousse and her cat Camembert is full of fabulous foods like Jellied Basilisk Eyes cured in Dandelion Wine, and this would be an ideal book for a parent or grandparent to share with a young girl, so they can spend time together researching and discussing the extraordinary foods and names.

Along with all the whimsy, the story has a Dahlesque cautionary element. The very first description of the sweet shop, while delicious, contains a few dark hints that its owner is not all she seems, and the enchanted world Madeleine finds herself in is seriously scary, despite the white-faced man being described merely as a babysitter. Many readers will never look at a box of chocolates in the same way again.

The problem with such a small book is that some elements of the story have to be glossed over. There is a rather thin feel to some scenes, and many readers would love to be able to linger and find out more about the terrifying world in which Madeleine is trapped. But this complaint apart, it is a delightful addition to the Madame Pamplemousse series and will be read with great pleasure by both children and adults.

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

Further reading suggestion: An excellent book about an abandoned child and the people who battle to possess her is Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and Holly Webb's magical Rose series also features a wise talking cat.

Buy Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher at Amazon.com.


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