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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Review: Adventures of the New Cut Gang by Philip Pullman

Good old-fashioned high-jinks to cheer us up at the start of the school year!

Title: The Adventures of the New Cut Gang
Author: Philip Pullman
Published: 1 Sept 2011
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Genre: Children's (8-12)

Find it at Amazon UK

Note that these stories were previously published separately as Thunderbolt's Waxwork and The Gas-Fitters' Ball

The Blurb says:
Thunderbolt, Benny, Bridie and Sharky Bob are a mixed bunch of vagabonds and urchins who come together to form the New Cut Gang in two comic tales of stolen silver, skulduggery and desperadoes.

Fake coins are turning up all over Lambeth and the finger of suspicion is pointing at Thunderbolt's dad - could he really be the forger? The crime-busting New Cut Gang come to the rescue!
And when just two clues - a blob of wax and a Swedish match - are discovered at the scene of a break-in, the children find themselves on the trail of an extremely cunning criminal.
Set in late Victorian London, these two action-packed thrillers have now been put together in a single volume - with new illustrations throughout from Horrible Histories illustrator, Martin Brown.

My verdict: Brilliant fun for kids aged 8+ (and parents!)
These are classic kids' stories: fast-paced, funny and exciting. The Victorian setting allows Pullman's gang to roam around, getting into scrapes and generally being much more independent than is possible for contemporary kids. And of course, that's at least half the fun - kids will love imagining they could have such adventures. Parents will also find these reminiscent of beloved stories from their own childhood. Although they are entirely suitable for a confident reader to read alone, they're a lot of fun shared too. The youngest readers may need help with the occasional piece of specific vocabulary (such as tanner or snide), although most is perfectly clear in context.

The characterisation is sharp, with great dialogue and a supporting cast of hapless grown-ups in need of help from the enterprising children. The child characters are endearing and funny at the same time - each has their quirks, and all contribute to the madcap schemes and general excitement. I also appreciated that there are boys and girls in the gang and this is definitely a book which will have cross-gender appeal.

Pacing is effective, with plenty of action to keep you turning the pages, and chapter ends that are suitable for bedtime reading (i.e. not too much of a cliffhanger to go to bed on!). The overall tone is warm and cosy: although the kids may not be perfect little angels, they are good-hearted and have a strong sense of right and wrong.

There is a cartoonish quality to these stories, due to the crazy improbability of the children's plans, and no doubt the illustrations will enhance this aspect (I was reading an unillustrated proof). Words like 'madcap' and 'hare-brained' keep trying to add themselves to this review, with good reason.

Overall, this is a great fun read. I definitely recommend it for boys and girls aged around 8 and up.
This is the sixteenth review I have completed for the British Books Challenge.
Although I received this book from Waterstones as a review copy, these remain my honest opinions :)


  1. Sounds awesome! I love Philip Pullman.

  2. How exciting, I love most of the Pullman I have read (and am undecided about the others!) - must go grab myself a copy, thanks!

  3. These are such fun stories aren't they! I really enjoyed reading them :o)


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