The Adventures of Harry Stevenson by Ali Pye

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The Adventures of Harry Stevenson by Ali Pye

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Two joyously daft adventures for a plucky young guinea pig. You'll be amazed how Harry can run and run when he has to – and we only hope this series does, too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781471170232

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Meet Harry Stevenson. He's a typical guinea pig, except he's perhaps a bit more ginger than normal. And more lazy than usual. And his appetite is possibly bigger than the norm. Apart from that he's a regular guinea pig. But the stories in which he features are nothing like. In the first one here, the lad who owns and looks after him is being forced to move house. It should be a simple journey for Harry, safe in his cage from all the predators that watching nature documentaries have put into his imagination, but he gets distracted and – shock horror – left behind. It takes some bravura slapstick and a charming contrivance for him to be found again. In the second, for we get two full-length stories in this volume, there's a party being held to get the lad used to his new schoolmates, and Harry used to life in a garden hutch. And one more wonderful conceit that drives high drama.

This is a really good read for the target audience. Harry is a lovely and warm character, and we immediately get to like him. He has no superpowers beyond understanding Billy Smith his owner, and being able to read the sports pages that get left to line his cage. But the fun is to be had from the outstandingly unusual scrapes that he ends up in. And I think they're so fun that I've never enjoyed a book this highly unlikely and implausible this much before.

Presentation is fine – although my proof didn't exactly convey what the funky "fluoro ink illustrations" would result in. The pictures are on the scrappy and charm-laden side, to be sure, with a lot of orange and ochre due for the final publication, but they're lively enough and prove the author's background in picture books was not wasted. There is a certain shtick about each and every chapter title being an interjection addressing Harry by his full name, but even when calling Harry Stevenson Harry Stevenson and seldom anything else that shtick isn't unwelcome.

Also of import to the book is the character of Billy. His mindset is really well wrought in the first piece, with his anxiety about the house move bringing him from the page to the reader's mind most successfully. But what the target reader will enjoy most is the kinetic, bravura action. Yes, the first tale does have a lot of setting up to cover, but there's enough drama and energy there, and even when extra relationships get formed in the second tale we hardly notice for the action. These stories whizz by, so it's only a good thing we get two in this book.

Whether we will get a brace each time of asking in future isn't immediately clear, but the likes of the Dirty Bertie books always manage three dramas each, and the age bracket isn't too different here. (I might be the first to predict a special one-story-only edition for World Book Day once this has taken off, big time.) What is certain is that this volume left me with a huge grin, and I'm already impatiently waiting more visits to Harry and Billy's world. This series really has hit the ground running.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

File neatly between Betty G Birney's Humphrey books and the likes of The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies.

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