Ali Ferguson has just moved into Lever Tower with his Mum and it feels a bit strange not to be living with his grandparents any more. He also misses his Dad even though he hardly ever hears from him. But then Ali starts making new friends: Caitlin – and Falcon, the boisterous Alsatian dog she looks after – as well as Caitlin’s Dad who looks a bit dodgy but soon takes a bit of a shine to Ali’s Mum. And then there’s Gez, Caitlin’s crazy best friend. Before long the three children have a mysterious case of missing persons and animals on their hands: foxes are vanishing, strange owls are hooting, and Falcon’s owner, Miss Osborne has disappeared completely. Are these things related? And is Caitlin’s Dad involved? Ali and friends are on a mission to discover the truth.
How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, Elen Caldecott’s well-received debut novel, made the shortlist for several awards, including the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Her second, How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini, came out of her wonderings as to whether it is possible to keep a zoo in a small terraced house. The resulting plot. as you might expect from this premise, is a tad screwball, but makes for an engaging comic caper for younger readers that races fluently along. The characters are convincing and appealing and their dialogue and excited deductions ring satisfyingly true. Caldecott turns a neatly funny phrase too: ‘Ali’s heart was pounding like a toddler with a saucepan lid’. Warm-hearted, and reassuring both about friendship and family life, this enjoyable book also has the merit of being equally suitable for both boys and girls.