An off-the-wall and engaging story for children who have the ability to read alone but aren’t yet ready to give up the pleasures of heavily illustrated books.
When Shen finds himself stranded in the middle of a frozen sea, with 66 shivering pugs for company and no food, he’s desperate to find help. Little does he suspect that this is just the start of their adventure in the frozen north: with his new friend Sika, and the pugs pulling their sled, he’s suddenly part of a race to the top of the world. Will they make it in time to meet the Snowfather or will one of the other contestants beat them to it?
This book has a great central concept: 66 pugs, wrapped in the cut-off sleeves of Aran sweaters, pulling a sled (making it a 264 paw-powered machine). What’s more the story is completely outlandish. On their way to the top of the world Shen, Sika and the pugs have to flee from snow trolls, battle sea monsters, and escape from a group of noodle-loving Yetis who are desperate to find people to help with their mountain of washing up.
I have no doubt that children will love every one of these adventures. While I found these fun to read, what I really loved was the descriptions of the other contestants in the race including Professor Shackelton Jones with his robot companion SNOBOT, the glamorous Mitzi Von Primm with her dyed pink poodles, and the dastardly Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling. Indeed, I had to look up how old author, Philip Reeve, is because it brought back many childhood memories of the famous animated television series the ‘Wacky Races.’
Sarah McIntyre’s illustrations are the perfect complement to this out-of-the-world story. In fact, while Reeve’s writing is clear and accessible and the ideas inspired, it’s really the illustrations that make this book difficult to put down. The pugs are so cute they largely steal the show – particularly when they are battling the sea monster – but there are a few others that deserve a mention. I particularly liked the pictures at the start of chapter eight which, without words, show us what happened to the sleds who had to abandon the race. I couldn’t resist chuckling at the sight of one of the characters using a selfie-stick to take a photo with a polar bear.
Overall, this is an engaging story for children (and, in my case at least, adults) who have the ability to read alone but aren’t yet ready to give up the pleasures of heavily illustrated books.
The third in the Oxford University Press series from Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, you might like to check out the other two Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space
Review first published on The Bookbag