The Kazillion Wish
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Reading the beginning of this, with its comments on the effects on Harlan and Ainslie of their parents' separation, you might think you were about to read an off-beat observation on modern divorce from a child's point of view. But the first chapter proves to be the last glimpse of life as we know it. Silly surnames have started to accumulate even by then and, afterwards, the book plunges wholeheartedly into zany fantasy. The children set off on a crazy quest for the granting of a Kazillion Wish - a very big wish indeed: to find a new partner for their lonely father. The quest is initiated by a Frongle called Zootfrog, and Harlan and Ainslie are accompanied by a creature called Zucchini Spacestation. They meet a host of other odd characters: the Chocolion; Macklin (who moves the stars by means of levers), Larry and Kelroy (Martians), the Lord of Bark and many more. But that's enough to give you a flavour. The book tries very hard to surprise its young readers and make them laugh. The cover comes in eye boggling shades of green with touches of glitter. Ross Collins, the illustrator, has tried to give Place's bizarre characters two dimensional reality. But not much of it worked for me. What I missed most was some emotional weight in the story or a depth of characterisation that would have made me care about what happened. Given the seriousness of the children's intentions, the story's resolution is happy but pat, bearing little relation to content of the quest.