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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.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Review: Operation Eiffel Tower by Elen Caldecott

Funny, heartwarming family tale for 9-12s 

For a story about family breakdown, this is beautifully funny, light and enjoyable. Both I and my 9 yr old daughter loved it. I'm not surprised it's one of the three contenders for the Red House Children's Book Award for this age group. It deals with familiar concerns that children have, hitting just the right tone. I'm sure children in similar situations would find reassurance here, while all readers can enjoy getting to know Jack and his siblings Lauren, Ruby and Billy, as they hatch plans to reunite their parents.

Jack is the main character here - the story is told from his perspective, although it's third person - and most of the planning springs from him. His older sister Lauren, as a teenager is less optimistic about their chances and Ruby and Billy are too young to contribute much in the way of plotting and planning. With four children in the family, we can see a range of responses and reactions to the family's background. Elen Caldecott makes it clear, without a whiff of didacticism, that the parents in this case are not getting things completely right, and that this has a clear effect on the children.

The plot is amusingly 'out there', as the children's plans are suitably childish and unlikely. At the same time, there are some close to tear-jerker moments of poignancy. The combination of these is a key strength of the book: it doesn't make light of a serious situation, but nor does it wallow. I would happily give this to any child in the right age bracket to read: the ensemble cast, the tone of the writing and the cover work together to make it perfectly gender-neutral.

Overall, I definitely recommend this as an enjoyable light read that explores some important issues for children in a delicate and gentle way.

From Goodreads:

Lauren, Jack, Ruby and Billy live by the seaside with their mum and dad. But their parents are always arguing, and then their dad moves out. Lauren and Jack decide they have to get them together again. And so begins Operation Eiffel Tower...

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Published July 2011 by Bloomsbury
Find more info on Goodreads
My grateful thanks go to the publisher for sending a review copy

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