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ABSOLUTE ZERO: Being the Second Part of the Bagthorpe Saga by Helen Cresswell

ABSOLUTE ZERO: Being the Second Part of the Bagthorpe Saga


Pub Date: March 27th, 1978
Publisher: Macmillan

Continuing the comic trilogy so smashingly launched in Ordinary Jack, Uncle Parker wins a Caribbean cruise with a slogan for Sugar-Coated Puffballs and the whole competitive Bagthorpe family (separately, of course) takes to clipping boxtops and composing jingles. Father begins by taking all the labels off the family store of canned goods, so that for the duration of the story no one knows whether it will be cling peaches or oxtails for tea. Forming an ""Unholy Alliance,"" Grandma Bag and four-year-old Daisy Parker, the former (but scarcely reformed) pyromaniac, win two contests straight off and, to the sponsors' eventual shock, wear the same outfits for both the soap and the toothpaste commercials. Gaunt father wins a slenderizing vacation at a health spa; hair dryers and yogurt makers pour in; and, worst of all, the Bagthorpes at home are chosen as subjects for a real-life TV series on The Happiest Family in England. (Apart from senile Grandpa, though, only Grandma is happy, and that's because she thrives on dissension.) But it's Jack's dumb mutt Zero who captures the nation's heart as the star of the Buried Bones Company's ""honest"" commercials. (They have to be honest as Zero is too dumb to be trained to act.) The whole preoccupation seems a bit unworthy of the multi-talented Bagthorpes; and, despite history's excelling itself at the end in a televised Christmas-tea-fire, fewer of their hyped-up disasters erupt into hilarity here than in Ordinary Jack. But the momentum of the first book would carry readers through this one even without the many daft situations and genuinely funny developments which do occur here--and which leave us waiting, no less enthusiastically, for volume three.