Snakes' Elbows by Deirdre Madden

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Snakes' Elbows by Deirdre Madden

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Wonderfully silly adventure full of quirky humour and also some rather touching moments.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571273362

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Barney Barrington, the millionaire pianist, is returning to live in his home town of Woodford, but the current local millionaire, Jasper Jellit, doesn't like it one little bit. Jasper revels in parading around town as the most extravagant millionaire, throwing ridiculous parties to show off his riches, and he resents the entrance of a competitor to the town. Barney, however, lives a quiet, reclusive life and wants no part in Jasper's shenanigans. But when a rare, beautiful painting comes up for sale they both decide they want it. Jasper, much like a spoilt child, will stop at nothing to get his way, but he may have a fight on his hands since there are a few animals who intend to save the day...!

You think you know where you are with this story, with ridiculous characters like Jasper, and the very funny local tabloid press printing ridiculous stories aimed at the lowest common denominator and full of WORDS unnecessarily written in CAPITAL LETTERS! But then suddenly you find that the animals in the story - Jasper's two dogs Cannibal and Bruiser, and Barney's cat Dandelion - are telepathic and, ultimately, it is thanks to them that everything turns out alright! The action is enjoyable, with touches of magic and silliness, and it works equally well for boys or girls probably in the 8 or 9 years and over sort of age range.

The style is conversational with the narrator stepping in now and again to comment, so it's very accessible to read. After I finished the book I went back to look at the illustrations only to discover that apart from a cat appearing at the heading of each chapter there aren't any! I think the characters had been created so well in my mind I'd felt like I'd actually seen bits of the action throughout the story. I really liked the character of Barney and the relationship he builds with the man who comes to work for him, Wilf. Jasper is a horrible villain, but in a very readable sort of way, and it didn't take long for me to completely believe that Jasper's two dogs were talking to each other and then to Dandelion the cat as it somehow ends up seeming completely normal.

For all its silliness it's actually an incredibly charming and sweet story. There's a moment when two strangers, a man and a woman, meet outside of Barney's house and stand together watching the lights go on all along the mansion and then again in reverse going off. They stand together wondering what is going on inside and are drawn together in the darkness by a moment of beauty. I found it quite moving. Barney's thoughts about playing the piano and the escapism it provides him are also lovely, and really beneath the magic and madness it is a story all about friendship and love, which is really what all the best stories are about. Very well written and a thoroughly enjoyable read - I'd certainly recommend it!

You might also enjoy reading The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams and Quentin Blake

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Buy Snakes' Elbows by Deirdre Madden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Snakes' Elbows by Deirdre Madden at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Snakes' Elbows by Deirdre Madden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Snakes' Elbows by Deirdre Madden at


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