Books by Philip Ardagh

Over six and a half feet tall, with a bushy beard, Philip Ardagh is not only very big but also very hairy. He is the author of the Eddie Dickens Trilogy and when not writing silly books, Mr. Ardagh is quite serious and frowns a great deal. He lives in a s

Released: May 1, 2005

Ardagh uses the third of his Unfor—er, "Unlikely Exploits" to resolve by main force the tangled plot of the first two, while showing that the seeming baddies aren't really villains at all, and leaving the radically impoverished McNally clan with both a rich friend and interesting magical abilities. Amid a barrage of flashbacks, scene cuts and authorial asides, Duffy (met in the previous episode and, rather typically, part man, part teddy bear thanks to some inspired surgery) reveals that he and two companions are refugees from an overcrowded future, reluctantly ready to return, as their very presence in this era is tearing the planet apart. Enlisted to help, the McNally children see it through with a bit of time-slipping of their own, then go off to help brain transplant survivor (not the only one here, either) Tom Dwyer/Lionel Lyons spend his riches on charitable causes. Though incomprehensible to readers unfamiliar with the preceding events (and even then . . . ), this farcical import, enlivened, if that's the word, with small, Edward Gorey-esque ink drawings, tumbles along merrily to a happy ending on the strength of its unusually daffy supporting cast and resourceful main characters. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
HEIR OF MYSTERY by Philip Ardagh
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

The second of Ardagh's Unlikely Exploits series takes the poor but unusually gifted McNally sibs into dreaded Fishbone Forest to reclaim the pilfered brain of their recently deceased youngest member, Fergal. Though they encounter several new characters—notably Mr. Maggs, a menacing, not-exactly-human brain surgeon cradling a teddy bear and scheming to resurrect Cary Grant, make all numbers even, and similar horrors—and do accomplish their goal (sort of), the plot tends to be elbowed aside by backtracking expeditions, authorial asides, and seemingly inexplicable occurrences. The oppressively rain-soaked setting, and Roberts's vignettes of misshapen figures with madly staring eyes, give the tale a Lemony taste (as in Snicket)—but it reads more like a set-up for future episodes than a self-contained story. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2004

The famously large and hairy author of the "Eddie Dickens" trilogy opens a new trio of Unfortunate Events—er, "Unlikely Exploits," with the fatal plummet of young Fergal McNally from a 14th-floor window. What follows, with a great deal of backtracking, scene-jumping, and silly authorial interjections, introduces the rest of the beleaguered McNally clan, from kindhearted Le Fay, surprise finalist in a nationwide typing contest, and her four siblings, to embittered, alcoholic ex-war hero—and, thanks to a doctor's dispensation, ex-parent—Rufus. Depicting these, along with a supporting cast that includes the likes of porky, arrogant contestant Graham Large and decidedly peculiar ventriloquist Hieronymus Peach, with pop-eyed panache in a profusion of comical sketches, Ardagh carries his tale through triumphs and tragedy, ending on a down note—though there are signs that Fergal (or, at least, some significant parts of him) will be back in subsequent episodes. Dahl and Snicket fans will find themselves on familiar ground. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
TERRIBLE TIMES by Philip Ardagh
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Ardagh claims to be closing out this trilogy, but readers of the earlier volumes may be justifiably skeptical. Here, after reintroducing young Eddie, his nutcase parents, his Mad Uncle Jack and Even Madder Aunt Maud (abbreviated to MAJ and EMUM for convenience), the author sends his naïve but capable lad off to America. She's joined by Lady Constance Bustle, whose previous traveling companions have all suddenly and mysteriously died, leaving their estates to her, an escaped convict from a previous adventure, and the fabulously huge, aptly named Dog's Bone Diamond. After many digressions, narrowly averted disasters, and silly set pieces à la Monty Python, Eddie survives a murder attempt, brings his nefarious governess to justice, and returns in triumph to the family digs at Awful End. In occasional small ink drawings, Roberts endows the entire cast with madly staring eyes and appropriately disheveled looks. Lemony Snicket fans in need of a happy ending might take to this very British farce as a change of pace. (glossary) (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Better known on this side of the Atlantic for series nonfiction, Ardagh kicks off what promises to be yet another Dickensian farce with this tale of an 11-year-old buffeted by winds of silliness. When Eddie's bedridden parents "turn yellow, go a bit crinkly about the edges, and smell of hot-water bottles," Mad Uncle Jack and Mad Aunt Maud arrive to sweep him off to their mansion, Awful End. Eddie does arrive safely by the end, but only after several quirky adventures, notably a brief stay in St. Horrid's Home for Grateful Orphans, run the aptly named Mr. & Mrs. Cruel-Streak. In overt homage to Edward Gorey and Victoria Chess, Roberts gives the figures in his small, spiky drawings exaggerated proportions and big, staring eyes for a comically gothic look. Neither author nor illustrator strays far from conventions long mapped out by Monty Python and legions of literary imitators; recommend this to fans as a placeholder while they wait for new work from the more creative likes of Sid Fleischman, Eva Ibbotson, Joan Aiken, Lemony Snicket, etc. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >