Page 45 Review by Stephen
In zero gravity, no one can hear you butter-cream scream.
Ah, the perils of being peckish!
This stars the most ferocious fruit cakes you could ever imagine. The most belligerent and bellicose Battenbergs ever! There's a green Fondant Fancy which I really don't fancy and that cupcake's a killer for sure! Hundreds & Thousands should be the icing on your cake, not the number of them desperate to do you dietary damage. Abandon ship!
From the creators of UKLA Award-winning OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, one of the most thrilling and funny illustrated prose books I've ever read (I rate it right up there with Dave Shelton's exquisitely well observed and equally award-winning A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT), comes a tale so tall it's told way up there in outer space.
Imagine this: one hundred and ninety-nine years until your next breakfast!
Astra's family is all set to travel to Nova Mundi, such a faraway planet that it will take yonks to get there.
"Yonks" is a specific, space-science unit precisely calibrating time taken between planets. I thought you already knew that.
Mum, Dad and Astra will all settle down in cryogenic suspension pods and so go to sleep for the duration. But Astra's not quite sure what the duration really means. One hundred and ninety-nine years sounds a long time to go before her next breaker so she asks the all-knowing Nom-O-Tron for a quick snack which won't ruin her appetite between meals. Guess what? It ruins her appetite between meals!
"Please state the exact type of cake you require," said the Nom-O-Tron.
She is a bit vague. And a bit too specific.
"Oh, just make me the most amazing, super-fantastic cake ever!" she said. "I want something brilliant! I want something so delicious it's scary! I want the ultimate cake!"
At which point Astra is whisked away by her parents and settled down to sleep. And, while she sleeps, Nom-O-Tron clicks and ticks away, working on her instructions, interpreting them as accurately as it can - "brilliant", "delicious", "ultimate"... I'm sure there was another adjective there - until the results cause a systems-wide wibble which wakes Astra up when the spaceship's journey is only halfway complete!
No one else wakes up, only Astra. So tentatively, ever so tentatively, she explores the corridors to discover that Nom-O-Tron has delivered the goods and come up with the confectionary: it's made the ultimate cake. It's made a bazillion if not squillion of them. They may well be so delicious it's scary but - with big, bulging eyes and the most fearsome of fangs - it is they are who are scary and Astra who seems quite delicious. And she's out there, all alone, in the night...
Well, until the googly-eyed Poglites pop up to plunder the spaceship's spoons. These aliens have developed warp-drive, hyper-drive and even parking-when-permitted-at-night. But they have never managed to master spoon technology! It's too advanced. They threaten to zap Astra with their Arkle-splifflicator.
"The first alien's suit might not have been able to find a translation for 'Arkle-Splifflicator', but Astra still felt pretty sure that she didn't want her arkles splifflicated: the last thing she needed right now, she felt, were splifflicated arkles."
Yep, there's that same love of language I found in OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS: "the spilled-salt glitter of the stars" and a clinical, dark dining area "where clean white surfaces shone coldly in the dim light, like icebergs on an Arctic night." Cake has been turned into a verb and this definitely one book in which you do not want to be "caked"!
The prose once more has been fully integrated into the illustrations, or is that vice-versa? Either way, it is as one. I adored the far from obvious coronas of McIntyre's stars, representing their radiating luminosity. Which sounds awfully highbrow so let me add that I also loved her maniacal, man-eating mega-sponges which are worthy of Jim Henderson, bibbling with bobbly cream. Astra is wide-eyed with wonder throughout - check every single page! - while the Poglites could not look more loopy and gormless.
So who will win out, do you think, between the mutant meringues and the dim-witted Poglites, tentacled to the teeth with stolen spoons?
"So you've escaped, have you?" growled the Poglite captain. "You still think you can scare us with your cakes? We are Poglites! We eat cakes for breakfast! Well, not really for breakfast - that would be weird - but we eat them for afternoon tea..."