Penguin AustraliaISBN: 9780241414781
- ISBN: 9780241414781
See, I associate Charlie Higson’s name with Young Bond, thrilling spy adventures, evil villains – you know the sort of thing so this absolutely hilarious book took me completely by surprise.
Stan is the only child of pretty ordinary parents and lives in a pretty ordinary suburban house and, in fact, lives a pretty ordinary life. He’s not what you would call an extrovert – or confident – or actually, not very interesting and certainly not brave, but he is a nice kid. So when he is invited to go with a school friend, Felix and his family on a holiday to Italy, he finds himself packed and at the airport with Felix’ uncle and aunt, whom he’s never met, going to a foreign country to stay with an entire villa full of strangers with only Felix – and a very tenuous friendship to bolster himself.
Stan’s list of things that could go wrong on the holiday is even funnier than the one his mum gives him ‘in case of emergency’ and readers will be continually amused throughout as Stan’s lists are added to – but also subtracted from – as he encounters new experiences from food to girls, from moody or just downright batty adults to haughty Italians.
While he is away Stan’s dad takes ill, which causes him great anxiety, but at the same time, as he observes the interactions of the families in the villa with acute perception, he develops a greater understanding of what he’s always taken to be his father’s dissatisfaction with his only son. As the holiday progresses and Stan’s small steps towards confidence increase, so does his insight into what family means and that sometimes, being anxious is OK and being even just a little brave can take you a long way.
I find it quite difficult at times to find humorous novels that will be enjoyed by lower secondary as much as primary children but I think this one might just fit the bill. I’m certainly going to give it a red-hot go with some of my Year 7s – especially some of the more reluctant readers.
Highly recommended for kiddos from around 10 years upwards – especially those who like a good laugh-out-loud read.