The Catchers by Stuart Kent
|The Catchers by Stuart Kent|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: August 2016|
Twelve-year-old Jamie Ellebert is wandering along perfectly happily in his very normal twelve-year-old life, when a sprite suddenly appears in his bedroom. The sprite is followed by a door. Also suddenly appearing. Also in his bedroom. There's a knock at the door, so Jamie takes the sprite and opens it. Down a passage, Jamie finds an old man wearing a pointy hat who introduces himself, grandly, as Colin Gertrude Hillary Caterwhich, of the Magic and Mythical creature catchers department, of the Magical Ministry Teathorpe branch. Jamie is in Magictasium. After a brief magical interlude with Colin and Trixie, a teenage witch, Colin returns home...
... to find his mother stuck, staring out of the kitchen window. She has been frozen in time by dark magic. There's nothing for it but a return to Magictasium to get to the bottom of things and return Jamie's mum to a fully functioning, walking, talking, human being. Jamie, Colin, Trixie and friends must find a dark wizard and stop him in his tracks. And it's not going to be easy. Jamie doesn't even possess a wand yet, for heavens sakes. And there are also many magical creatures, including a dragon called Spot, who will get in the way. But that's what catchers like Colin are for - tracking down wayward magical creatures.
Can this slightly motley crew triumph against the magical odds?
There is a lot to like in The Catchers. The whole thing has a very good heart about it, together with a good dollop of cheerful British eccentricity. You can't help but love the slightly nutty band of catchers as they career around Magictasium leaving havoc in their wake, but always fighting the good fight. There are jokes aplenty and lots of funny cultural references - fancy an iWand 8, anyone? Worried about getting tarred and feathered for speeding (speeding is anything faster than strolling) - fear thee not, that's only for a second offence. Hopeless bureaucracy is even worse in the magical world than it is here in our boring, magic-free one and this is a constant target of Kent's slightly naughty humour.
There's a dastardly baddie chased by rather unlikely heroes with a bit of the Keystone Cops about them. But you never doubt the courage and decency of Jamie and Colin and the others. They are easy to root for, even if Mum wasn't sitting at home, frozen, and in urgent need of rescue. The action comes thick and fast too, so we can file The Catchers under page-turner. It's a joyful journey of the imagination and you can never have too much imagination, can you?
I'm not going to say that it's perfect. Jamie is twelve years old. Young readers generally prefer a central character who is a year or two older than them. So you'd expect The Catchers to appeal mostly to the middle graders aged, say, 10-12. And the narrative and setting fit this very well, while older children may want a more challenging story line. However, the vocabulary is very stretching for this age group and the prose is dialogue-heavy with few explanatory internal thought passages. This might present technical challenges to the middle graders. So I do think there is a slight mismatch between concept and execution.
That said, we'll go back to there being a lot to like in The Catchers. Because there really is a lot to like. It's fun, it's magical, it's energetic and it's humorous. And you can imagine further stories in this fantasyverse that readers will enjoy following.
If The Catchers appeals, you might also want to look at The Tin Snail by Cameron McAllister, a high-spirited story of the creation of one of the first "people's cars" - the CV2. Based on truth but with a sprinkle of magic, this is a fun story for every reader.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Catchers by Stuart Kent at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Catchers by Stuart Kent at Amazon.com.
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