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Emily the Strange: Lost Days

by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner, illustrated by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker 

I bought this book last year for my nine year old – it’s written for young adults, but we fell in love with the cats. After a quick flick through, there was no subject matter to worry about, just some long words and a large quirk quotient.  She loved it and has been pestering me to read it too ever since – so I did, and it utterly charmed me too with its madcap ways…

Emily the Strange started out as a design on T-shirts back in the early 1990s, and went from there to some art books, comics and finally an illustrated novel, (No 2 is imminent).  But who is Emily?  - here’s the blurb …

13 years old. Able to leap tall buildings, probably, if she felt like it. More likely to be napping with her four black cats; or cobbling together a particle accelerator out of lint, lentils, and safety pins; or rocking out on drums/guitar/saxophone/zither; or painting a swirling feral sewer mural; or forcing someone to say “swirling feral sewer mural” 13 times fast … and pointing and laughing.

She’s certainly one of a kind – and no stranger to doing things for herself!  The start of the novel, which is told in diary form, sees her waking up on a park bench in a strange town called Blackrock all on her own and she doesn’t remember a thing.  But this amnesia doesn’t faze her at all, she sets out to find out who she is and what’s happening in the strange town.  She adopts the coffee bar ‘El Dungeon’ as a home from home and sleeps in a box in the alley behind. Raven behind the counter looks after her and soon she adopts four lovely cats – or rather they adopt her…

There’s a definite dystopian/gothic/fantasy/steampunky/geeky feel to the book which I loved.  Emily is one smart cookie; she’s a girl after my own heart being a list-maker,  scientist and cat-lover.  This is one black (with red highlights) covered book that bucks the trend – wonderful illustrations, a hip West-coast sensibility and vocabulary, high quirk quotient – and no vampires!  Highly recommended.  (9/10, I borrowed this book back from my daughter!).

P.S. All the way through, I was thinking of parallels with the wonderful John Sturges film with Spencer Tracy, Bad Day At Black Rock [1955] where he is a one-armed stranger who comes into town, stirs things up, sorts them out and leaves!

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