Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Rampaging foodstuffs are a bit of a recurring theme in our books..." - Philip Reeve
He's not wrong!
If you thought you'd already had your fill from CAKES IN SPACE, prepare to get stuffed once again, this time by a Candyfloss Colossus who's gotten all grumpy: a sore-headed, sentient sugar mountain - sweet!
There will be screams, there will be squeals; there will be giggles galore and dodgem-car dashes in this all-ages outrage, full of the fun of the fair: a mad, moon-based fair, accessible by interplanetary spaceship only. Sequester your sandwiches and hold onto your hats - you're in for the ride of your life!
Wouldn't you just love to live on Funfair Moon? An entire moon dedicated to the best rides ever: the curliest roller coasters, the swirliest helter-skelters and the scariest haunted house ever because it's actually haunted - by ghosts! Well, Emily does live there, above the Lost Property Office.
In a way, she's a little bit of Lost Property herself, having hatched from a pale-blue egg laid accidentally by an over-excited occupant of the Switchback of Doom. You might well lay an egg yourself if you're ever brave enough to embark! It was found the next morning by Jinks and O'Hare, the funfair repair men, and for nearly ten years Emily has been looked after by Mrs Mimms.
"Mrs Mimms, who ran the Lost Property Office, wasn't exactly like a mum. In fact, she was more like a sort of giant alien octopus."
That's because she was one! The Lost Property office was right next to Jinks and O'Hare's workshop.
"Emily often peeked in to see what they were fixing, and sometimes O'Hare would let her help with small jobs such as unclogging mega-thunk pistons or replacing worn-out thunderspin sprockets."
On alternate days, however, Emily went to school. Now, I hope you didn't yell "Bor-ing!" because this was a most forward-looking school created by the famous scientist, Floomish Spoob. It was all-about looking, basically, on account of being a Learny-Go-Round.
"Professor Spoob had discovered that people always learn more when they are on the move (that is why travel broadens the mind, but nobody learns much while they are asleep)."
Brilliant! You've got to adore Reeve's lateral thinking as well his deep love of language. I mean, "mega-thunk pistons" and "thunderspin sprockets"! It gets better:
"So on the Learny-Go-Round the pupils sat at desks which whirled around and around the central podium where the teacher stood. During the more difficult lessons they also went up and down, like the painted horses on a carousel.
"That meant that some people got quite travel sick during double maths."
I've just put my hand up in admission.
It was an idyllic existence because everyone who worked all the rides also lived there, and they were all sorts of shapes, sizes and facial arrangements - not to mention all the visitors from planets far and wide. Thanks to Jinks and O'Hare the Funfair Moon had the best Health and Safety record in existence; a spotless record renowned throughout the galaxy, the Milky Way and even the Mars Bar (non-alcoholic juice-drinks only).
Because something black and spiny has arrived in a hatbox which Mrs Mimms popped onto her shelves, and now it's scuttling and rustling about unnoticed all over and under the fair and rides are beginning to go substantially skew-whiff. What a day for Mr Moonbottom from the Galactic Council (Leisure and Entertainment Sub-Committee) to touch down with his assistant Miss Weebly, in their thoroughly dull but very heavy spaceship, squashing an I-Speak-Your-Weight-Machine!
"You weigh 7,224 tonnes, argh zzxxzx . . . "
Bang out of order. And it is, now that they've crushed it!
That's one black mark against the fair already, and it's only going to get worse. Jinks and O'Hare are going to have their hands full dealing with the disasters while our Emily frantically races round, trying to get to the bottom of all the breakdowns while keeping Mr Moonbottom from the Galactic Council (Leisure and Entertainment Sub-Committee) and Miss Weebly in the dark.
Where have all the ghouls in the ghost-train gone? Why is something vast, pink and sticky striding around town and tearing up the Terror Mountain in a rage? What has happened to Mrs Mimms' Lost Property Office?
"Someone comes in asking for a lost bobble hat and I check my list and see Bobble Hat - Number 79 - but when I fetch Number 79, it isn't a bobble hat, it's a pair of skis or a cement mixer."
The well of Reeve and McIntyre's co-creative inventiveness and quite frankly insane imaginations appears to be bottomless and never runs dry. O'Hare communicating through smiles, shrugs and cheeky eyebrow-wriggling only! Synchronised swimming followed by synchronised strimming! And of course there's a park-and-ride on a nearby asteroid if the entire moon is dedicated to the funfair! Why would there not be?
The art is equally rich with little background jokes thrown in for the sharp-eyed and attentive: a pair of three-lens sunglasses dangling from one of Mrs Mimms' many tentacles; a spider dangling from one of Miss Weebly's hair-buns on the ghost train; the back-page of a newspaper in the mermaid lagoon featuring a photo of Iris, the short-sighted mermaid from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS. Oh, there are cameos of critters from all your favourite McIntyre and Reeve ridiculousnesses, if you look close enough, including PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH and even The Dartmoor Pegasus!
I've always admired how integrated the text and illustrations are - that must take an awful lot of juggling - so that, when they're not, it's for deliberate, striking effect, as when we get out first glimpse of the black and spiky thing peering ominously out of its hatbox, like a Tove Jansson creation from MOOMIN. Sat at the bottom of the page, the white space above suggests mystery, an ellipsis and an almost certain imminent exit...
Jinks and O'Hare are delightful designs - this time on Philip's part, for he illustrated the original comic which Sarah wrote for The Phoenix Weekly Comic. O'Hare, drawn in pencil, is one big bundle of fluff with a further fluff of moustache. Jinks' eyes stand out on stalks, but makes for great comedy on the rollercoaster ride. But my favourite here is Lord Krull (oh, there's a lot more for Emily and co. to contend with than I've made out) who is ever so imposing!
(The "SILENCE!"s stretch out across the whole page in thunderous type, but I can't do that here, sorry.)
"SILENCE!" roared the stranger, "I am Lord Krull, Commander of the Black Fleet, Conqueror of Worlds, Supreme Ruler of the Darkvoids of Quorn. Star systems tremble at my very name. But my wife's gone to her sister's for the weekend and she left me in charge of our little boy. So I thought I'd bring him to your Funfair Moon. I'm told children enjoy this thing you call 'fun'."
"Yes, we do," said Emily.
"SILENCE!" bellowed Lord Krull. "Unfortunately I got rather dizzy on the Learny-Go-Round."
"But the Learny-Go-Round isn't a ride," said Emily. "It's our school..."
"I was told it would be educational," said Lord Krull. "But it went a bit faster than I was expecting."