Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Helen Cooper - The Hippo at the End of the Hall - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Review (David Fickling)


The invitation was delivered by bees. It wasn't addressed to anyone at all, but Ben knew it was for him. It would lead him to an old, shambolic museum, full of strange and bewitching creatures. A peculiar world of hidden mysteries and curious family secrets . . . and some really dangerous magic. 

But most importantly Ben discovers a connection to his father and the family he never knew he had. And now he has something important to fight for - survival of the gee museum and the promise of finding out who he really is. 

Helen Cooper is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose picture books include Pumpkin Soup, The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed. Both of which won the CILIP Kate Greenaway award. Her debut novel, The Hippo at the End of the Hall, will be published by David Fickling Books on the 2nd November 2017 which is a fantastic accomplished debut and an absolute joy to read. It is a visual story that will you not forget. 

It was a real privilege to read an early chapter sample of this book back in June. I read the small extract and immediately thought I can not wait to read the finished book in its entirety. So when the copy arrived, I was very much excited to see it and get stuck into it straight away. (Thank you very much, David Fickling)

The first thing that I'm going to say is that it's another fantastic production by the team. A glorious red hardback lavished with love, care and detail with a fantastic story inside. You turn the book cover to be greeted with the fantastic black endpapers where you begin to feel the love for the story inside. 

As you start to read this magical plot, you will notice the really charming pencil sketches/drawings which bring the characters and the setting to life. They are a lovely touch and a fantastic way to start you on your big-footed adventure. There are 42 chapters filled with a sparkling and vivid imagination. It is a story that will stand the test of time - a great classic of the future and one of my book picks of the year. 

A visit to the Peabody Museum (Boston) is where the inspiration for the story started. One of the main characters and, my favourite pygmy hippopotamus, began as an initial sketch from here. Whilst many of the other characters were created from a range of other museums. The author collected these sketches and, with time, love and a bucketful of heart, made The GEE museum in this book a wonderous and enchanting place to visit. The story comes to life with a buzz of bees and a menagerie of stuffed creatures that might make you jump with excitement and anticipation. 

The story itself encompasses a re-telling of two old folk tales that intertwine to create the main story. They achieve this rather nicely by delivering mystery, myth, and wonder to the adventure. In my opinion, it enhances the story and creates an exciting wild adventure. 

The story is a real family read that will appeal to everybody. You will gravitate to the mayhem and mystery that follows the main character, Ben. It's a real heartfelt story that pulls on the reality strings of loss and loneliness whilst giving the reader a feel-good moment once the last pages have been turned. You will be sad as you come to the end of this wonderfully descriptive adventure. This is another fantastic book from the children's publisher of the year, in my opinion. 
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