To Jim and his best friend Charlie, bugging the staff room seemed like a fun-fest prank. What they didn't expect to hear was two middle-school teachers speaking in code. That not-quite-by-chance discovery propels this pair of anarchistic adventurers on an action-packed furtive mission of their own. A frantic, entertaining standalone novel follow-up to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) has reworked his out-of-print 1992 novel Gridzbi Spudvetch! into a delightful crowd pleaser. Jimbo lives in a small flat with his hardworking mother, unemployed father, and disdainful older sister, Becky, who spends her time with a loser of a biker boyfriend. But Jimbo’s life takes a turn away from the dull when he and his adventurous friend Charlie plant walkie-talkies in the staff lounge at school. They overhear the teachers using an unintelligible language, entangling them in a farfetched and otherworldly mystery (“There was an adventure on its way, a nuclear-powered, one-hundred-ton adventure with reclining seats and a snack trolley”). Charlie is apparently abducted and Jimbo finds an unusually courageous ally in Becky, leading to a cross-country motorbike chase, the cracking of an alien code, intergalactic travel via a “Weff-Beam,” and a trip to Plonk, a planet both familiar and strange. Jimbo and Charlie are excellent foils for each other, and Haddon’s madcap escapade is fast-paced, pitch perfect, and utterly unbelievable—yet not a word will be doubted. Ages 10-up. (May)
As Mark Haddon explains in his foreword, this story was originally published as Gridzbi Spudvetch! (Walker, 1993)long before the author achieved renown with his international best-seller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Doubleday, 2003/VOYA December 2003). Besides simplifying the title, Haddon substantially revised the text of this science fiction comedy. Jim, the narrator, and his best friend, Charlie, are a pair of cheerful troublemakers in their early teens. Jim's older sister, Becky, and the parents of both boys are hilarious characters, and the family dynamics are quite entertaining. After overhearing two of their teachers speaking in what sounds like code or a foreign language, Jim and Charlie decide to investigate, and soon find themselves caught up in a series of wild adventures with extraterrestrials. Following suspected aliens all the way from the south of England to the remote Scottish island of Skye, Jim, Charlie, and Becky are captured, but manage to escape from a planet in the "Sagittarian Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy," foil a dastardly alien plot, and save the world. This science fiction romp is very much in the spirit of Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien (Pocket Books, 1989), and such Daniel Pinkwater classics as Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars (Dutton, 1979) and Borgel (Macmillan,1990/VOYA April 1990). The inspired nuttiness of the encounters between eccentric humans and poorly-disguised extraterrestrials will remind some readers of the Men in Black films. This is a wholesome, rollicking, high-spirited caper, ideal for tweens and early teens, including male reluctant readers. Reviewer: Walter Hogan
Gr 7–9—When Jimbo hears that he might be expelled from school, his best friend has a plan to find out if the rumor is true. The two boys hide a walkie-talkie in the teacher's lounge, but end up hearing more than they planned on. Soon they are being pursued by people with amazing powers who lead them on a chase across England to places beyond their wildest dreams. The well-paced, rollicking story line vacillates between hair-raising and hilarious. The relationships between the three main characters, especially the love-hate relationship Jimbo has with his leather-clad, motorcycle-riding older sister, are realistic and charming. Even the secondary characters are unique and interesting. Julian Rhind-Tutt reads Mark Haddon's book (Random/David Fickling Books, 2010) with a pronounced blue-collar British accent. He reproduces the cadences and idioms of a London teen with delightful authenticity and makes each character sound unique. This book contains language that might be offensive to some, but the swearing is in keeping with the age of the characters and the setting. Some British slang might be unfamiliar, but the meaning is usually discernable in context. Jimbo's adventure is much lighter and less philosophical than Only You Can Save Mankind (HarperCollins, 2006), but has some Pratchett-like random spontaneity. A great choice for reluctant readers, especially boys, and anyone who is in the mood for a bit of fun.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
In the wake of his Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003), Haddon offers a slighter but nonetheless hilarious update of a tale originally published in 1993 as Gridzbi Spudvetch! Overhearing two seemingly dorky teachers speaking in an unknown tongue, Jimbo and Charlie start poking around-and find themselves in deeper dutch than they could have imagined. It seems that Earth is being checked out by murderous space aliens as a candidate for invasion or maybe total destruction, depending on their mood. Threats from a laser-fingered stranger and Charlie's sudden disappearance cast Jimbo and his ill-tempered but resourceful goth big sister Becky into a mad dash to the Isle of Skye, where the aliens have secreted their one "Weff-Beam" station. Jimbo finds himself beamed to Planet Plonk, where he finds Charlie-and a colony of kidnapped sci-fi fans too dazzled at being on another planet to want to escape. Jimbo's self-effacing narration accommodates both the looniness and the earth-bound emotional ups and downs of adolescents. In all, a well-knit tale that hurtles down a logical path to a satisfying conclusion . . . .well worth a second chance. (Science fiction. 10-12)