The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean

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The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Funny and quirky and charming and wonderful! One for the grown-ups just as much as the kids...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: October 2009
Publisher: OUP
ISBN: 978-0192756022

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I love it when I discover a new book that I just can't put down, and today, for me, it was the story of Pepper Roux. Our hero, Pepper, had his future foretold at his birth, when his Aunt Mireille had a vision from Saint Constance that Pepper would be dead on his fourteenth birthday. On hearing this news his parents take very little interest in him, and Pepper grows up fully aware of his impending doom thanks to his very religious Aunt who forces him to confession every day, and ensures he is fully versed in the terrors of hell. So, as you can probably guess, his fourteenth birthday comes around and yet somehow Pepper finds that he is still alive. Through a series of chance happenings he flees the ever present menace of death, skipping from one person's life to another, afraid at how he has somehow evaded Saint Constance and the angels of death and forever guilty at the lies he is forced to tell to cover up his escape from death.

It's always refreshing to read a children's story that really, if you come down to it, is simply a wonderful story for anyone, child or adult. Pepper Roux is an intelligent, well-written and entertaining novel. Surreal by turns, it has a lovely charm to it that I think is mostly down to Pepper himself who is terribly brave, hopelessly naive and unfailingly kind. His Aunt and Mother refer to him as 'Le Pauvre' when he is little, so when others ask his name he says that it is 'Pauvre' only they mishear and think his name is Poivre which is French for Pepper.

The novel is set in France, in an undetermined time period, and has quite a French flavour to it, magic and humour and odd-ness all rolled into one. The characters are wonderful, larger than life, and all hanging perfectly on the character of Pepper who is forced to reinvent himself with each new disguise he adopts. The whole story is masterfully plotted, yet it is handled so lightly that you don't understand all the links and chains winding through and within the tale until you reach the end.

It is also a clever story. I think it would be quite a demanding read for younger children, or those more used to facile, easy-to-swallow stories. Geraldine McCaughrean is a skilful writer, and she's created a story for children who devour books, who like nothing better than to curl up in an armchair and read until their eyes hurt. The ones who'll take their time over a passage of description, savouring McCaughrean's choice of words. Yet it's also a story for their parents, to sneak off their children's bedside tables at night so that they can read on to the next chapter, and the next, and maybe just one more...

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

Further reading suggestion: Another well-written magical book that confident readers might enjoy is Secret Heart by David Almond. Younger readers might like to try another of Geraldine McCaughrean's books Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and David Wyatt.

Buy The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean at Amazon.com.


Booklists.jpg The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean is in the Carnegie Medal 2011.

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