Page 45 Review by Stephen
Break out the biscuits! Kevin the roly-poly flying pony is back!
"There was a big silver door knocker in the shape of a snake eating its tail. "Stupid snake!" said Kevin. You'd never catch a flying pony doing something as stupid as eating his own tail, he thought. Then he wondered what his tail tasted like and turned round to have a nibble."
And he's as peckish as ever.
""Biscuits?" said Kevin, who had just realized that it was the end of Chapter Two already and he hadn't had any custard creams yet."
As those who've previously perused Page 45's Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre Section and enjoyed its literary spoils (like Kevin's last loop-the-loop), both these collaborative creators fire on full thrusters to entertain your young ones by employing everything at their disposal: mystery, mythology, a great many biscuits and cakes, illustrations fully integrated into the text, popular culture, pugs, cumulatively funny linguistic reprises and irreverent attention to chapter breaks.
"...And this is Nobbly Nora, a friendly tortoise. (She doesn't have anything to do with this story at all, she just wanted to be in a book.)"
Here both mythology and popular culture are brought to the fore as we encounter more legendary beings from Kevin's natural home on the wild wet hills of the Outermost West and a spectacularly successful goth popstress called Misty Twiglet whose music videos like 'Trapped (In A Haunted Wardrobe)' prominently feature her being trapped. (In a haunted wardrobe.)
Kevin's comfy straw nest currently sits far from the wild wet hills of the Outermost West atop the flat-roof floor of Max and Daisy's top-floor flat.
(You try saying that with your fat face stuffed full of Bourbons!)
That top-floor flat has just been flooded with a scream, because Maisy is Misty's biggest fan, and Misty - it's just been announced on the TV - is about to move to the home town of Bumbleford! Or rather, just outside it, in the vast gated mansion called Gloomsbury Grange. Will she be seen shopping (spookily) in Bumbleford or getting her hair cut (gelled and sprayed) in Maz and Maisy's Mum's hair salon? (Unlikely - it's also flooded but with water; mermaids are her chief customers.)
The family's frenzied debate about whether pop goddesses get their minions to do their shopping or send servants to get their hair cut for them is suddenly, startlingly interrupted downstairs by the arrival in his shiny sports car of Misty Twiglet's chief minion, Mr Baz Gumption, Superstar Talent Management, with his "shiny jacket and shiny dark glasses, and once he had got over the shock of having a roly-pony flying pony land beside him, he smiled a shiny smile..."
He only wants to buy Kevin for Gloomsbury Grange!
"How much do you want for him?"
""Nothing!" said Max. "I mean..."
""Kevin's not for sale!" said Mum.
""He's our friend," said Daisy.
"Oh, sure," said Baz Gumption. "But your friend would be way better off living in Misty Twiglet's garden than up on your roof.""
Baz Gumption does his best to persuade them with all the amenities on offer, but the family are resolute, defiant, and Baz isn't accustomed to defiance.
"Baz Gumption scowled while trying to keep smiling, which was an interesting look."
I love the lightness of Reeve's quiet critiques, but you won't like the heaviness of Baz's response when refused. All it'll take is a little luring of Max's star-struck sister then a typically roguish, nay ruthless sleight-of-hand when Maisy and Misty [totally redacted] and Kevin may find his flight quite encumbered!
La McIntyre's art is as thrilling and inventive as ever, with lots of sneaky background jokes I'm not going to sign-post for you for fear of spoiling your fun (hint, however: you're not the only one reading here!), and, as usual, there will be a few familiar faces of former friends, even if one is carefully hidden amongst Misty's household ornaments.
Poor Kevin's new straw nest isn't going to be situated in anything like the idyllic surroundings Baz Gumption promised and McIntyre's decidedly dismal holding pen looks more like a ramshackle early-to-mid 20th Century zoo enclosure, as inappropriate and inhospitable as the cramped concrete monstrosity I once witnessed polar bears gloomily mourning in. Notice how his water trough is actually a human domestic bath complete with tap appliances!
I did promise you more mythology too, didn't I? Reeve and McIntyre have assembled quite the collection of fellow captives, like the Gorgon called Zola who wisely wears sunglasses (more for your protection than hers), a Centaur who I later spotted wearing Cyclops-style shades (nice!) and a cardigan-loving faun called Cardigan Faun. There Reeve excels himself:
"His eyes were the colour of sunlight in autumn woods."
It's an evocative enough description for anyone's irises - but for a sylvan Satyr's, it's perfect!
The title of course is KEVIN'S GREAT ESCAPE, but how can this possibly be facilitated when the mansion is walled, gated and guarded by more than Baz Gumption, and Max and Daisy's only flying ally finds himself knotted up in netting?! It won't be easy!!
Especially since Kevin's priorities are as spot-on as ever:
"I can't go without my friends."
Transportation for one will prove problematic (I haven't mentioned them yet, but you'll see!).
Some of my favourite art also contains story spoilers, so I've reluctantly withheld it, but you wait until you see our roly-poly flying pony soaring above Bumbleford's country churchyard complete with lychgate from an aerial point of view! Spectacular!
I leave you instead with one of Sarah's awesome blogs which always come with extra activities (https://jabberworks.livejournal.com/836398.html - there have been will be many more related to Kevin) and this book's introductory endpapers which are absolutely typical of Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.
I'm surprised any decent home ever let's them through its front door.
Maybe they get in another way?