A wonderfully imaginative story combined with stupendous two-colour illustrations. A must for young readers aged 7+.
Max has always wanted a pet but his parents insist it wouldn’t be fair given they live in a flat at the top of a very tall building. Fortunately, life in the little town of Bumbleford where Max lives is about to take a rather unexpected turn. A terrible storm from the magical lands of the Outermost West fills the River Bumble which bursts its banks and floods the town bringing with it all sorts of creatures who don’t usually come near places where ordinary people live – water monsters, giggly mermaids, naughty sea monkeys. And Kevin – a rather plump flying pony with very small wings. Kevin collides with the wall of Max’s building and the two become friends. Very soon they will also be heroes to the stranded people of Bumbleford.
As this brief summary suggests this is a wonderfully imaginative story from the crazy brain of Philip Reeve. It’s impossible not to love the idea of a roly poly flying pony who’s addicted to biscuits, most especially custard creams. We instantly warm to Kevin as a character, partly because the concept is so irresistibly original and also because he’s introduced with such wonderful subtle humour. The opening line is characteristic of the rest of the text: “This is Kevin. Kevin is a flying pony. (You may have noticed that already, in which case you are Very Observant, Well done! Award yourself a gold star).” We then go on to learn more about Kevin and I particularly liked the short list of Kevin’s favourite things to eat and the repeat of the note “only not in that order”.
The language and narrative are outwardly simply making this perfect for newly emerging readers. However, there is much more to the story including story characterisation (I loved Max’s sister Daisy), and an underlying theme about friendship and community. Added to this, there is a fun sub-plot detailing the adventures of two guinea pigs – Beyoncé and Neville – who sail across the flooded town in their hutch, utilise a plastic bag as a sail and end up authoring the story of their adventures. Indeed, you have to check out the illustrations on the end pages which summarise the adventures of Beyoncé and Neville.
This brings me nicely on to the illustrations. Rather than a book that has illustrations, the pictures in The Legend of Kevin are an integral and indispensable part of the story. Again, they are instantly appealing. Like the text they also give the illusion of simplicity. Look closer, however, and you will see the skill in the pictures. For example, check out the expressions illustrator, Sarah McIntyre, gives the supposedly simply pictures of our roly poly pony or the amazing detail in the pictures of the flooded Bumbleford and the antics of the sea monkeys. By far my favourite picture can be found on page 80 where the mermaid trying out a boot as a hat looks suspiciously like our super-talented illustrator.
If you enjoyed this, I’d highly recommend reading the other stories for this age range from this remarkable double act. Why not try Oliver and the Seawigs, Cakes in Space or my personal favourite Pugs of the Frozen North.