Review also includes:
Alfie Green and a Sink Full of Frogs, 978-0862789374
These titles for newly confident young readers consist of two fable-like tales. The first story in a planned series sets the scene: Alfie’s grandfather, a keen gardener, has died, but leaves him a very special gift for his birthday – a key which unlocks a magical book. When Alfie places his hand on a picture of a seed, it transforms into a talking plant. Alfie learns that he can keep the gift of speaking to plants if he follows the terms of a quest which will lead him to the magic land of Arcania. Alfie is helped by a rather silly quartet of talking garden tools and hindered by malevolent plants like Snapping Dragons and Spitting Lilies. The first story, in which the author is clearly finding his feet, is consciously whimsical and its plot far too complicated for a text of this length, employing too many standard fantasy elements. In the second story, the author jettisons some of the magic for a more straightforward storyline, involving an invasion of frogs. This story, grounded in everyday reality, is much more successful and funnier, too. Alfie’s family and neighbours feature, neatly and humorously characterised, and there is a great sense of a believable community lovingly observed. A Pied Piper-style magic saves the day, of course, but what young readers will relish is the realistic hero whose actions lead him into trouble.