The Deadly 7 is Garth Jenning’s first children’s book but he has a very impressive track record as a film and video director: amongst other things, he wrote and directed Son of Rambow, described quite correctly by The Guardian as ‘the most delightful British comedy about school life since Gregory’s Girl.’ No wonder then that his debut children’s novel exudes so much confidence and bravura. Starring 11-year-old Nelson, it begins in the everyday world of 11-year-olds everywhere – home and family, lunches, school. Nelson’s relationship with his big sister Celeste is beautifully described, and feels particularly real. Very soon however, the plot careers off into a wild – and wildly original – fantasy adventure that sees Nelson catapulted across the world in the company of seven assorted monsters. These monsters represent the seven deadly sins and are created from Nelson’s own body via a strange contraption hidden in a secret room in, of all places, St Paul’s Cathedral. As you will realise from this, any plot summary is pretty much out of the question, but no matter how wacky the train of events, the story retains its own sense of logic and this is as much an adventure story as comedy caper. Celeste is missing, she’s been magically spirited away, and Nelson’s need to find his sister provides an urgency that drives the plot.
Nelson’s seven monsters are inspired comic creations, and readers will thoroughly enjoy this nutty adventure. Garth Jennings has illustrated the book too and there are numerous black and white line illustrations to add to the appeal. He deserves credit too for the authorial voice, an omniscient narrator that brought to mind E Nesbit for me.