An extraordinary story coupled with wonderful and witty illustrations. You’ll be giggling and wincing in turn.
Granny Fondant is waking up to another perfect day in her very perfect world. She glances out of her window and sees a figure in a lemon dress running down Honeysuckle Lane. It’s her granddaughter, Buttercup Sunshine. How lovely. But what is Buttercup carrying? It’s bright red with a large handle and it’s obviously very heavy. Granny Fondant adjusts her glasses to get a better look – why is Buttercup carrying a chainsaw?
I was slightly concerned when I started reading this book. The description of Granny Fondant’s perfect storybook cottage in the opening paragraph is just so twee that I couldn’t help cringing. Could I bear to plough through 150 pages? The next paragraph reinforced this as we learn more about Briar’s Cove – the nicest, safest, sweetest town there ever was. And it doesn’t get any better in the third paragraph when we meet our heroine, Buttercup Sunshine – the friendliest, most angelic little girl you could ever imagine. Urgh!
Then, in a totally unexpected and magnificent twist, we see what Buttercup is holding – a CHAINSAW! There couldn’t be a more incongruous item and, from here, the terrific talent of Colin Mulhern comes into its own. While zombie hoards shamble slowly in pursuit of Buttercup’s brains, she drops down into a chair and – over a cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit – explains to Granny how she came to be exploring the Wicked Woods of Woe (or Wicked Woods of Wooaaahhh depending on your pronunciation).
It’s an incredibly fun story and I’m confident children will thoroughly enjoy reading how it all started while Buttercup was investigating the crime of the mission thimble which she – no I mean the “mysterious thief” – had hidden in the garden. Young readers will also love her partner, Barry the toad, and the way Buttercup is able to translate his croaks into important communications (not to mention an American accent).
I spent these chapters chuckling merrily. However, I also couldn’t help reflecting on the impressive skill with which the story flips back and forth from Buttercup’s account of her adventures to the room with Granny and Buttercup drinking tea. This approach really adds to the drama and, amazingly, there isn’t a milli-second’s confusion. Colin – please tell me how you do this!
As the zombie’s get closer, Buttercup and Granny formulate a plan and we spend the rest of the book giggling and wincing in turn as they seek to put their plan into action. Buttercup’s antics are funny, if not always entirely believable, and I was intrigued to discover what they were up to. If I’m honest, I was a little disappointed when the big plan was revealed but that’s probably because I am well over three decades older than the target audience. And, besides, this was quickly forgotten when my expectations were turned on their head by the story’s conclusion, particularly the fate of poor Granny.
I’d normally end the review here, but I’m going to have to go over the standard word count as I can’t not mention the wonderful and witty illustrations. They are all outstanding. I loved the variable expressions in the pictures of Buttercup Sunshine but suspect that at least some of the child readers will prefer the hilarious pictures of the zombies and their grasping hands.
If you enjoyed this, you won’t have to wait long for book 2 – Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman’s Hill is out in April 2019. Alternatively, why not try Squirrel Boy vs the Squirrel Hunter by Dave Lowe.
Publication Date: September 2018
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Website: Colin Mulhern