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Flember: The Secret Book by Jamie Smart

Buy Flember: The Secret Book by Jamie Smart at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Alex Mitchell
Reviewed by Alex Mitchell
Summary: A hilarious tale of friendship, inventiveness, the secret of life, and, ultimately, about owning up to your mistakes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 356 Date: October 2019
Publisher: David Fickling Books
ISBN: 978-1910989463

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A mysterious island. A strange and mystical power called Flember. A boy-inventor called Dev, who uncovers a long forgotten secret. And a giant, red robot bear?! The sleepy village of Eden is about to descend into hilarious chaos - can disastrous Dev save his brand new best friend? Find out in this fully illustrated mad-cap adventure.

Our protagonist is Dev, a young inventor with a talent for screwing up – for instance, the plot of the book is kicked off by his attempt at flight ending up splattering a storefront with fermenting cheese (it makes sense in context, I swear). One of his greatest inventions is Boja bear, a large robot bear that he built to protect the village, but who ends up causing mayhem instead. This causes his older brother Santoro, a particularly ambitious member of the Youth Guild, and his mum Amy a lot of grief. His closest friends are the Space Fleet, a group of kids who often assist Dev in his schemes, foremost of which is Mina, for whom he specifically built Boja Bear. Among the adult population of the village are Bastor, the local blacksmith and head of the Youth Guild, who acts as more of a reasonable authority figure to Mayor Bumblebuss, a grumpy old man who often resorts to more extreme measures (e.g. banishment). There is also Arnold the waffle maker, Zerigauld the antiques shop owner, Ventillo the fruit-and-vegetable shop owner (also Dev's grandmother) and a whole host of other quirky small-town residents. The interactions between the characters are quite funny at times (particularly Bastor's awkward attempts to woo Dev's mum, and Boja's antics in general) and do add quite a bit of both drama and humanity to the story.

The setting is both a little odd and quite mysterious. While it is saccharine, taking place on an idyllic island overflowing with Flember (which appears to be the life-force of the island), it nevertheless carries quite a sinister undertone. The town of Eden is surrounded by the Wildening, with a massive wall around it to protect the villagers from whatever is out there. Books are banned and possession of them is punishable by being cast out into the Wildening, and everyone wears helmets (for no particularly defined reason). The Mayor seems to hold absolute power over the town, with the Youth Guild acting as a cross between the boy scouts and the police force. It's never really explained why Eden is the way it is, but given the book's ending, there are likely to be sequels, and hopefully it will be expanded upon in later instalments.

The illustrations in the book add quite a bit to the story. As well as showing images of the characters and the setting, they also show diagrams of Dev's various inventions and even entire pages from the titular secret book. They do also provide some extra information not stated in the text, such as describing the functions of the various components of Dev's inventions (albeit written in technobabble). The art style does remind me of the illustrations in the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, which is fitting since both have a similar sense of humour.

Overall, this is a funny tale of friendship, inventiveness and, ultimately, about taking responsibility for your mistakes.

Similar books by other authors:
Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge – a similar, but more serious, book for teenagers.

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Buy Flember: The Secret Book by Jamie Smart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flember: The Secret Book by Jamie Smart at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Flember: The Secret Book by Jamie Smart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flember: The Secret Book by Jamie Smart at Amazon.com.


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