|Ribblestrop Forever! by Andy Mulligan|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A closing volume of this maverick trilogy that manages to be both quaintly charming and exuberantly wacky at the same time.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: August 2012|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
It's a new term for Ribblestrop, the weirdest boarding school in the world of fiction. The pupils, who of course include a bus-load of orphaned Himalayan circus stars, are so used to the extraordinary that when three returning children arrive by landing the plane they're travelling in - onto the said bus - nobody bats an eyelid. But problems begin when they stray onto a rival school's ground, and practically rescue a historian living in a stolen mobile library, who is tracing the ghosts of an ancient tribe across the local region. Soon things conspire to put the whole faculty on the same path...
This series has always had a strange, maverick sensibility - whether being subversively gothic for the older tweens, or darkly slapstick in the straighter action of book two. Throughout these pages is a different kind of sensibility - an old-fashioned, charming maturity almost, as Ribblestrop children go outward bound and live a history lesson. It's not as if you can assume Ribblestrop children are at all realistic, of course - they're far too intelligent, inquisitive and adaptable - and still able to cause comic mayhem when they have a roustabout.
Those adjectives also apply to this book, as it again shows the author's versatility in tone, content and subject. What appears to be a wacky action piece also disguises a plea for curriculum-free, not by-the-book teaching and an acceptance of whatever needs to be faced - such as the eviction the Ribblestrop residents are once again threatened with.
At the same time the series doesn't pander to regular young adult book cliche. Subterranean drowning, concern for your school's very roof, a love of self-sustainability up a tree - they don't strike me as wish-fulfilment stereotypes. But just as the headmaster isn't really as devil-may-care as he seems, so you can grow to cherish and admire the whole Ribblestrop way of thinking - that of the school and the books. You might not get to care too much about the children individually - as an ensemble piece it still is hard to get beyond the basics of character, but the novels make a very rich series, and the balance of smarts and bonkers throughout has made it very easy to see why it's been lauded and awarded. I felt the middle episode a little too regular, but this more magical finale does what it should, and leaves us wanting more.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Ribblestrop Forever! by Andy Mulligan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Ribblestrop Forever! by Andy Mulligan at Amazon.com.
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