Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally. This one is aimed at a slightly younger audience than most of the books I review are, but it was still one of my favourites of last year.
Ellie Irving was kind enough to do an interview with me in November last year, which can be found here.
Luke is obsessed with records. He's so busy planning on breaking world records when he grows up, and playing world records DVD games, that he doesn't take much of an interest in what's going on around him. But that's about to change, because when the village of Port Bren is chosen to host a waste-incinerator plant his house will be demolished and the graveyard where his dad's buried will be destroyed – unless the village is too historically important for this to happen. How can they put themselves on the map in one week? Luke comes up with the idea to break 50 world records… but why won't his mum let him take part?
This is a real charmer which tweens and younger teens are going to lap up. It's an easy to read book despite the fairly lengthy chapters – it's full of gentle humour, traditional English eccentrics who'll raise a smile from the adults reading, a sweet romance for Luke's mum, and a lovely narrator. Luke is a very sweet character, who's rather serious and obviously still grieving for his father a year or so after his death, and his relationship with his mum is really well portrayed, especially once she has two men taking an interest in her. The other inhabitants of Port Bren, and visitors such as the record adjudicator Simon who turns up depressed because he knows that everyone wanted the more famous Vinnie Denton, and becomes more and more drawn to the village, are all delightful. That's except, of course, for the necessary money grabbing villains wanting the development to go ahead who we all suspect will come to a Bad End! But not that Bad, because this is too sweet a book for anything really awful to happen.
There's never much of a doubt that Port Bren will be saved (look at the subtitle, "How we saved Port Bren with cake and other household goods"!) but the journey to get there has a couple of fun twists and turns and always managed to hold my attention. Some of the records attempted and achieved are impressively zany (Irving thanks someone in the notes for telling her to ramp up the crazy and it's clear she took that advice!) and there's a wonderful list of all the attempts at the back of the book complete with who tried them and whether they passed or failed which is entertaining in itself.
Overall, this is a high recommendation which children and parents alike will enjoy as a nice light read.