How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant by Elen Caldecott
|How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant by Elen Caldecott|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Nice, bright and subtle story about grief. There's a deal of life-affirming humour and it's simply told with a very attractive and individual central character.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: January 2009|
The last thing Kirsty's grandfather asks her before he dies is to look after his allotment. He had tended it lovingly for more than thirty years, some of them with Kirsty at his side. Sadly, Mr Thomas from the council isn't having any of it. Kirsty's too young and, in any case, he has a waiting list and Kirsty's name isn't on it. So Kirsty, aided by her half-brother and sister, embarks on an outrageous plan involving placards, helicopters, stake outs, computer hacking, museums and stuffed elephants.
But the clock is ticking, and she has less than a week to assure the allotment's future and rouse her father from his paralysis of grief...
I had so many reasons to like How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant. Like Kirsty, I spent hour upon hour with my grandfather in his allotment as a child. They form some of my most cherished memories. Elen Caldecott completed a creative writing MA at Bath Spa University and several of our reviewers here at Bookbag are on its undergraduate course. And I like uplifting books that take kindly looks at stressful moments in children's lives and show how family ties can so often turn them around. I also like a book that begins with a bang and grabs me on page one. Elen Caldecott does that:
Kirsty stumbled and fell towards the acid-green leaves. As they scratched her face she realised that they were exactly the same colour as the Amazonian poisonous frogs she had seen in the river earlier. She got back to her feet quickly. This was a dangerous place; deadly snakes hunted in the canopy above, jaguars padded through the undergrowth. She stepped forward carefully so that the ginormous, man-eating beetles couldn't gnaw her boots. One of her fellow explorers had lost his big toe that way only yesterday. Her stomach rumbled. She had been trekking for days and supplies were running low.
"Can I eat some peas, Grandad?" she shouted.
If you don't love that, with its visual and energetic description and its wonderful comic timing, then I despair of you!
How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant is a gentle but humorous look at the grieving process. It's simply told and accessible to all. It has moments of pathos and some seriousness and its observation is spot on. But it's never preachy and has a wonderfully uplifting and reassuring quality about it. Humour is never far away and there are some great slapstick moments. Bookbag recommends it wholeheartedly to all primary age readers.
My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.
How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant by Elen Caldecott is in the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2009.
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