A madcap preteen quest offers a serious message in this children’s novel.
In the town of Embleton, it is the day of the Splitting, a ritual where 10-year-old Tipple and all of the other kids his age from the eastern townships will be categorized according to their abilities and limitations. The Splitting is centuries-old. It has pigeonholed generation after generation, restricting children’s options and snuffing out their potentials. Tipple is an imaginative, adventurous boy. He doesn’t yet know what his future might be and doesn’t need it mandated for him. He and his friend Shammy don’t want to be separated. They see their differences as a strength and don’t wish to be stopped from staging make-believe exploits inspired by the legendary wizard Poopy Patinski. Thankfully, excitingly, the Splitting this year is interrupted. Embleton’s most sacred, powerful artifact, the Green Egg, has been stolen by Moo Moo Chickens, and it is up to the 10-year-olds to recover it from deep within the Forest of Enzar. While the other kids are arguing and trying to form themselves into groups, Tipple and Shammy set off. Soon they are in the thick of adventure, confronting Attack Squirrels, robot grannies, and, of course, Moo Moo Chickens. Will Tipple and Shammy retrieve the Green Egg and demonstrate to the eastern townships the wrongness of the Splitting? In this fifth installment of a series, Graham (The Revenge of the Moo Moo Chickens, 2011, etc.) uses his story to promote positive life lessons and isn’t afraid to put them up front. Tipple is often an authorial mouthpiece, not just narrating out loud in the first person, but also thinking through the morals of the tale (and indeed delivering them in dialogue, irrespective of how artificial this sounds). The author is not the smoothest of writers. His tenses sometimes jump tracks—“We did everything together, which would include the Splitting. I hope we ended up in the same group as I couldn’t imagine doing the Splitting without him”—and on several occasions, he has Tipple repeat himself. But such deficiencies are hard to frown upon in view of the book’s high-spirited celebration of self-worth. Tipple and Shammy are just the right sort of cool/uncool. The tale’s throwaway references (like Pickle Weasels and Wangle-beavers) alone should be enough to delight young readers.
Zany and thoughtful; an overt but fun parable.