A follow up to the Carnegie award shortlisted Boy Underwater, this moving and funny story about friendship and family is equally brilliant. 5 stars is simply not enough!
Mrs Martin is Cymbeline Igloo’s favourite teacher OF ALL TIME. In fact, everyone in his school loves Mrs Martin. That’s why it’s so shocking when TERRIBLE things start to happen to her. Why would anyone put blue jelly in Mrs Martin’s shoes? Why would they steal her special bag, and graffiti her car? Cymbeline is determined to find out. But Mrs Martin isn’t the only person who needs his help. Cymbeline’s friend, Veronique, is upset because her grandma, Nanai, is dangerously ill. Nanai is refusing to eat and is likely to die if someone doesn’t find out why. Cymbeline has solved an important mystery before but can he do it again as time begins to run out for Nanai?
I loved Adam Baron’s previous book about nine-year-old Cymbeline Igloo – Boy Underwater – and was excited to discover there was a sequel. Follow up books are tricky but, despite the slightly underwhelming title, this book is equally brilliant.
Once again, the story is told from Cymbeline’s point of view and perfectly nails the child’s perspective. This creates wonderful opportunities for humour and many laugh out loud moments. (Although, as with Boy Underwater, the humour will probably be most appreciated by readers who are older than Cymbeline).
The book also successfully pulls off a direct address to the reader that would probably fail miserably in the hands of a less talented author. Indeed, even more is made of this in this second novel as Cymbeline makes us wait for the answers, slowly building up the tension by telling us we won’t believe what happened. The description of what happened to Mrs Martin’s bag on their science day is a good example. I was listening to the book on audible in my car: I reached my destination but had to sit (literally on the edge of my seat with car keys in hand) for several minutes because I NEEDED to find out what happened.
While the voice is perfect and the characters strong, I was also impressed by the clever plot. When you first start reading (or, in my case, listening), it appears the story is made up a series of separate plotlines. [The strange events at school around Mrs Martin. Cymbeline’s school project. The illness of Veronique’s grandmother, Nanai.] However, when you reach the climax, you realise these are, in fact, all related and what seemed like totally disparate threads are pulled together in a way that I simply didn’t expect. Even the casual descriptions of the school turn out to be important!
And, if that wasn’t enough, hidden beneath the humour, characterisation and clever plot are important themes about friendship and family. I particularly liked the underlying messages about treating people equally wherever they are from and the valuing the contribution that other cultures have made to British life.
Publication date: June 2019
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books