Ingrid, Wyatt and I love reading books aloud to each other and one of the great discoveries this school year has been the creative team of Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Reeve provides the writing polish and McIntrye the illustrations, but they both come up with the crazy concepts and turn them into magic. The way these two push the boundaries of theme, convention and situation is extremely fresh and is a formula for great reading.
Pugs of the Frozen North is my favorite of the two we've read. It provides a take on the Santa Clause archetype that is playful, subversive, and deep. The plot moves very quickly and the tale is full of outlandish characters. The heroes are an orphan and a spirited arctic local girl who sprint for the north pole on a dog sled pulled by 40 pug dogs in a race that brings them into close contact with Sea Monsters, Yeti's, villans, magical kinds of different snow, perilous ice bridges and the father of the North, himself. I can't say enough about this beautiful bit of fun, except that we immediately went out and got another book by the same authors, even though its title was "Cakes in Space." Really. That's how much we liked Pugs of the Frozen North. In all honesty, it's been a few months since we read this one and for that reason what I can say here about the book is brief. But I highly recommend it.
I also highly recommend Cakes in Space. Although Cakes in Space does not quite have the same exceptional heart that Pugs of the Frozen North does, Cakes in Space does win kudos for its concept: A girl awakes on a spaceship run by robots in which all the other passengers are sleeping through a voyage planned to take more than a century on their way to a new home planet. What the girl finds is that the computer she asked to make the most amazing cake possible just before getting into her sleep pod has been churning away for seventy years creating cakes that have evolved with each iteration into living, thinking, hunting cakes. Alone except for a robot companion, the girl must battle these man-eating, incredibly fierce cakes. In the midst of it all, she discovers the ship is being scrapped by aliens who have mistaken the ship for abandonned and on a quest to recover all of its spoons. The book is remarkably effective in making a terrifying existential predicament both very weighty and very hilarious and thus palatable for a six-year-old who is easily frightened. For example, just when things are darkest, the girl is saved by a being called "the Nameless Horror" who turns out to be kind and brave. You'll love this book too. It was fantastic.
Wyatt in particular gives both books two big thumbs up!
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