Mr Gum and the Secret Hideout by Andy Stanton
|Mr Gum and the Secret Hideout by Andy Stanton|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The eighth main book in the series, and practically the best.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: November 2010|
Mr Gum is out for revenge. So often has he tried to get the best of Lamonic Bibber, the town our heroes live in, and so often he has failed. This time, however, he is well prepared. He has a secret hideout (the clue was in the title), he has Billy William the Third with him - his accomplice who's stupid and evil enough to laugh at a person getting their eyebrows burnt off, before realising said person is himself, and he has a ready-made supply of stinky, rotting meat and animal parts to help in his vengeance. Just what all this adds up to is well worth the wait in the eighth entry in this expanding series of books.
Despite a couple of minor misfires recently, the series is really back on track here. The scenario is absurd, the characters stupid when needed to be, heroic when needed to be, and - in the case of Surprising Ben - surprisingly surprising. This is the only series you can turn to for such effortless wordplay, such inventive and intelligent wackiness, and so many returning in-jokes. Philip Ardagh can run Stanton close, but I continue to feel he is in a league of his own.
Evidence is easily found here, for this is so utterly quotable I could spatter the screen with gags and only slightly spoil the book. Friday O'Leary, we learn, was once a professional apple. A hen gets so startled it lays an egg out from its mouth. Elsewhere, we see our heroes Friday and Polly discover what a ship's brig is, from the wrong side of the door, we find what might be the world's longest straw, learn what meat pirates have as their ringtones, - even William Shakespeare is on hand with some news.
And for once the wacky wordplay, presented complete with obligatory song lyrics, typographic invention and more, is as topnotch as the story. There was the possibility of a moral lesson here, regarding a current issue I won't reveal, and Stanton just says 'hang' to that, and gives us entertainment, pure and simple. So returning fans will be like a gang of carefree bellybuttons at the news this is one of the most enjoyable entries to an already award-winning and constantly inventive franchise. Newcomers have a lot of lemon meringue to consume en route here, but it's well worth it.
The series, and my encounters with it, began with You're a Bad Man, Mr Gum!. More absurdity, but with a slightly more sensible and familiarly fantasy backing, can be had with Sebastian Darke: A Buffalope's Tale by Philip Caveney.
You can also watch a video podcast with Andy Stanton here.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mr Gum and the Secret Hideout by Andy Stanton at Amazon.com.
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