A delightfully quirky children’s adventure

The problem with getting into your forties and beyond is that you inevitably need reading glasses.  I managed to lose mine for a whole day this weekend, but luckily I found them this morning – phew!  So yesterday I had to read with my old glasses (which are now perfect for computer work, but no good for small type).  I had to find something with bigger print to read, hence I picked out this book for children aged around 7+ from my daughter’s bookcase.

Hugo Pepper by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

My daughter and I are big fans of Chris Riddell’s Ottoline books. Indeed I’m a fan of Riddell’s wonderfully quirky and intricate illustrations in general – he currently does the Literary Review front cover each month (see right), and designed the cover for The Graveyard Book amongst others.  He has a very particular style, and his girl faces in particular are fab in an Alice in Wonderland meets Wednesday Addams sort of way with their high foreheads and intelligent stares.   So while I was familiar with him, I’d not yet read any of his collaborations with Paul Stewart, of which there are a growing number, including the bestselling Edge Chronicles.

Hugo Pepper is the third in another series called Far Flung Adventures, and it was an absolute delight.  The babe in arms Hugo was found in a crashed sledge by snowmen, who then left him on the doorstep of a reindeer herder couple in the Far North, who adopt him and bring him up.  Although he loves them dearly, when he’s about ten years old, the discovery of his parents’ wrecked sled leads him to seek his home. So he sets off on an adventure, eventually arriving in Firefly Square.  There he meets a whole group of family friends who are under siege from the new evil editor of the town newspaper which used to be edited by Hugo’s grandfather. It is now publishing scurrilous attacks on his friends to drive them out of town…

We meet weird and wonderful characters in this adventure – walking Mermaids, Lighthousekeepers, Pirates, Artisan tea-blenders and carpetweavers, a one-eared cat and lots of big footed snowmen.  If you like Lemony Snicket, you’ll definitely enjoy this tale and its illustrations; and if I’m honest, I’d love to read the rest of this series and more by this pair – even with my normal glasses!  (9/10) We bought this book.

10 thoughts on “A delightfully quirky children’s adventure

  1. This looks like a lot of fun, I shall look out for it. I can always pretend I’m buying it for my grandson. I see from the cover that it won the Golden Smarties award. Is that from the sweet maker?

  2. For children I’d start with the first in the series (Fergus Crane), but the order doesn’t really matter. Nestles who make smarties sponsor a children’s book award – so yes it is the sweet makers.

    • What I liked best is that the characters are all so wonderfully inventive – no-one is without a quirk, it just brings it totally alive.

  3. I’m so glad you lost your reading glasses as now I’ve got even more ideas for what my children can read. My daughter loved Ottoline and the Yellow Cat – the illustrations are delightful and really enhance the reading experience. I really must pay more attention in class as I have a copy of The Graveyard Book which I read and really enjoyed but I didn’t realise that the cover was by the same illustrator even though I admired it. Thanks for the recommendation. :-)

  4. There’s a third Ottoline book coming out in the autumn, and even though my daughter will be ten and they’re really for 7yr olds, she’s still desperate to read it. I think she bonds with Mr Monroe – they have similar amounts of hair!

    • I was surprised that Amazon reckoned Ottoline was for 9-12 year olds. My daughter (6) was very impressed that she could read them herself and we have the third Ottoline on our wishlist. Honestly, I can hardly keep up with all the book acquisitions in this household – still, what a lovely addiction to have!! ;-)

  5. Here is my 62-year-old trick on reading glasses. Now that you know what strength you need, get ready to buy more (if they are just reading glasses you can buy them cheap at the chemist). Give them “homes” around your house so everywhere you do read there are glasses at hand. I have a large house and I get buy with five pairs, the oldest bought seven years ago and the most recent less than a year. Cost is about the price of two books, but all sets of glasses have read more than two score of books, so it is a good trade-off.

    • I’m sure it’ll come to that Kevin. My eyes are still in transition and one side is far worse than the others, so I don’t know if the off the shelf ones will work (I will check though!). Thanks for the advice.

  6. Pingback: Bookish Gifts for Older Children « Gaskella

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