Rip Runner by Will Gatti

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Rip Runner by Will Gatti

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Funny and original mystery caper about running, immigration, and a latter day Scarlet Pimpernel. It has a good ear, smart style and is accessible to all.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2008
Publisher: Orchard
ISBN: 1846163684

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It's been very quiet in Peasley since Michael (the Greek), Minou (the Geek) and Blake (the Pimpernel) exposed their headmaster Mr Pent for the villainous villain, more villainous than many other villains, that he is. Life has gone on pretty much as normal. Blake's found an obsession in surfing slang. Minou has continued to be superior and geeky. And Michael has continued to suffer his larger-than-life, Greeker-than-Greek father's booming voice and huge hugs.

Michael's in with a chance of qualifying for the Junior Olympics, while Ahmet, an Afghan refugee, is looking like sweeping the board with his awesome talent. Blake's father's running shoe factories are suffering a series of mysterious break-ins, and the evil Sir Pent has been inexplicably released from prison.

And if you don't think you could make an adventure from that, then there's no fun in you at all.

Rip Runner is a funny and original mystery caper about running, immigration, and a latter day Scarlet Pimpernel. It did make me laugh. While there's plenty of chases and enough gadgets to please any action fan, it has a very British flavour to it. While many children's books of this time are relentlessly Hollywood in their context, this one felt a lot more like The Italian Job. Irony never lurks far below the surface.

The writing has a good ear and smart style - not surprising when you consider Gatti is a teacher - and is accessible to all, without patronising the more sophisticated readers, or alienating the more reluctant. Gatti also presents social issues with a great delicacy. Rip Runner explores the points of view of immigrants and refugees in Britain and although it doesn't bang any drums, there is much pause for thought in simple throwaway remarks and observations made by the characters. Besides the tribulations Ahmet suffers, Michael's background is Greek and Minou is from Suriname, and while Blake's family is as establishment as they come, his mother is French. Subtly, the book presents a social melting pot as something desirable and no kind of threat.

It's fresh and original and great fun to read. Late primary and early secondary children will love it.

My thanks to the nice people at Orchard for sending the book.

If they enjoyed Rip Runner, they might also like The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd about Ted searching for his missing cousin.

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