Muddle Earth Too by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
|Muddle Earth Too by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Ordinary schoolboy Joe Jefferson gets pulled into Muddle Earth once again, this time by means of a flat-pack wardrobe (don't ask). Once again he and his friends have to save the day, this time by finding the Goblet of Porridge which was stolen during a broomball match. Things are not helped by the fact that his moody older sister got dragged along for the ride, and she's fallen in love with a certain vampire called Edward . . . Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell were kind enough talk to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: September 2011|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
It takes courage, and a lot of skill, to write a book which parodies not one but dozens of popular stories, and it is fortunate that Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell are just the guys for the job. They take on wizards, handsome vampires, fairies, princesses, dragons and flying carpets, and jumble the whole lot up together. The result is one hilarious, silly and thoroughly satisfying story.
Joe has visited Muddle Earth before, when Randalf the Wise, a wizard who only knows one spell (well, apart from the last line) summoned him to battle the evil villain Dr Cuddles. You don't need to read that book first to enjoy this one, but it is more fun if you do as you get to know in detail lots of the zany characters and places which are mentioned in these pages: you might miss them otherwise, and they are well worth the time. How many wizards do you know who live on a thatched-roof houseboat on a lake which hovers high above the land? Or ogres who can't sleep without a cuddly toy? Or hills covered in killer daisies? On that last occasion Joe was accompanied by his dog: this time he finds himself with grouchy Ella, who favours black nail varnish and a sulky attitude.
Randalf is now Head of Stinkyhogs School of Wizardry, although his job is soon in jeopardy unless he (which, to his mind, means Joe) can recover the stolen Goblet. The companions, urged on by Queen Susan's lady-in-waiting Edwina Lovely, suspect the thumb-sucking barbarian vampire Edward Gorgeous, who has disappeared with Joe's sister Ella, and so they pursue the two of them across Muddle Earth. Joe is more concerned with getting his sister back home than finding some broomball trophy, but to do that he has to find the lamp post which marks the way to the wardrobe and its portal. Unfortunately said lamp post has a nasty habit of wandering off and getting lost, which complicates poor Joe's life considerably. On their travels they encounter, among many, many strange things, bad-tempered unicorns, cake-baking barbarians, the fairy king and queen (who haven't aged well since Shakespeare's time), talking trees and a rather whiny magic carpet.
The way Messrs Stewart and Riddell manage to combine themes from Narnia, Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, Mortal Engines, Howl's Moving Castle, His Dark Materials, the Arabian Nights and Midsummer Night's Dream, to mention just a few (honestly!) is nothing short of masterly. This book will bear several readings just to spot all its popular, filmic and literary references, and will delight adult readers. But its real test is whether it will appeal to children of about 9+, and on that score the answer must be a resounding yes.
Whether or not they recognise all the allusions (girls will probably understand the power of the name Edward, for example, while boys may not) the story is simply very, very funny. The authors' exuberance, their pleasure in word-games and utterly daft names, a host of characters who are both improbable and endearing, and a plethora of groan-worthy jokes all serve to make this a joyous read. Add to that a plot which crackles and sparkles along, replete with danger and reverses, characters both sinister and ridiculous, and some of the oddest settings to come from the imagination of humanity, and success is guaranteed. But that's not all. The crowning glory, the absolute whipped-cream-and-sprinkles on this fine confection, has to be Mr Riddell's drawings. They are clever, they are comic, they are rich and fabulous, and the book would be worth its weight in gold for them alone.
Buy this book for young readers you know – but if it's for a birthday or Christmas, order it in good time, because if you so much as glance inside you will not be able to hand it over until you've read the lot. Better still, get yourself a copy too.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: For more excellent adventures from these two talented people, read Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf and the sequels, Barnaby Grimes: Return of the Emerald Skull and Barnaby Grimes: Legion of the Dead. If you fancy another couple of stories about boys who accidentally find themselves in crazy worlds, try Night on Terror Island by Philip Caveney or The Space Crime Conspiracy by Gareth P Jones.
Paul Stewart And Chris Riddell was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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