Lydia’s Tin Lid Drum
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This issue’s cover illustration is from Brian Wildsmith’s The Hare and the Tortoise (© Brian Wildsmith 1966) published by Oxford University Press and re-issued in 2007 (978 0 19 272708 4, £5.99 pbk). Brian Wildsmith’s work is discussed by Joanna Carey in this issue. Thanks to Oxford University Press for their help with this March cover.
Within the sweetie-world of Planet Plenti lies Candy, a country made up of several regions, all of which are under the spell of evil Master Chef, Stannic, and his cohorts of robot guards. The country’s inhabitants have been taken prisoner: the adults sent to labour camps and the children placed in solitary confinement, locked into cramped quarters and forced to attend cooking school. Nine-year-old Lydia, whose memories of happier times still haunt her, manages to escape. Pursued by robot hounds, it seems that she is trapped – but then help comes in the unlikely form of seven strange girls, also on the run. As the girls set out on an extraordinary adventure, which involves a quest for exotic sweets with the power to destroy Stannic, so they learn about friendship and the forging of a sisterhood in which each child finds her place.
The story is highly inventive, wrapped in a crazy world of confectionery and food. Not only does the storyline deal with sugary matters but the writing too is filled with wordplay and descriptions of a culinary nature. At times, the wordplay dazzles with wit and originality, but, spread over 500 pages, it soon becomes over-rich and relentless. And this brings me to my main criticism of the book – it is far too long. At half the length, or even less, it may have been able to sustain the sugar-sweet references, but as it is, themes, plot and characterisation are somewhat lost in a cloying mass of verbal dexterity.