The Curse of the Bogle's Beard by Siobhan Rowden
|The Curse of the Bogle's Beard by Siobhan Rowden|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A deceptively intelligent frolic for eight-to-twelves, with a disgusting granny to a nervy young lad, and someone's well-kept secrets.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2012|
This is the book that takes the disgusting granny stereotype to its farthest lengths. Barnaby's gran is fond of purple to look queenly, digs her nose in his ear when she talks to him, and is rather hairy, very burpy and incredibly bossy. She also has nothing good to say about her daughter's choice of husband - Barnaby's father - who has decided to ignore the invitation to inherit the family's pickled vegetable factory and has in fact vanished. Could an old diary Barnaby's found of someone's very brave and very beetrooty life hold a clue? Will Barnaby overcome his nerves to explore Nan's mansion on his own? And quite how far will she go at preserving certain things?
If anything, the blurb and cover go too far to sell the burpy gran element, for the merits of the book go far beyond them. There are quite delicious ways for the truth to be slow in coming out - mostly due to Barnaby being able to cope with reading only one or two pages of the diary at a time, for various reasons. The peculiar mansion is equally well revealed, with its disembodied voices and footsteps that go tapping in the night. The loss of Barnaby's father is an easy way in for the young reader, and while it makes Nan a bit one-note when she responds to that, the boy's life and household is nicely defined.
For a first novel, Rowden forced herself to do very familiar things, in her own way. The pickle factory, once Barnaby deigns to visit to learn the family trade, has to match up to Willy Wonka's, and almost does, with the help of a comedy song - that and the Damien Hurst gag made me laugh the most as an adult. The balance between family life and fantasy, and between traditional and gross-out, are both cleverly done - partly as for once the mum goes with the boy on his quest.
So while there is common ground here with lots of similar wacky frolics (bodily functions, peculiar science, multiple fonts) this series opener is a flashing bright advert for what might come, while being a self-contained bounty of its own. The plotting is very clever, and even the first two pages alone were able to suck me onto a very different path to the surprising pleasures I was to find later on.
I must thank the kind publishers for my review copy.
Another boy solving mysteries through writing - not reading - about old things can be had with Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.