Snails, Spells & Snazzlepops by Robyn Cooper, Makaro Press
This is Robyn Cooper’s first published book for children, though she has proved her writing skills with previous publications and stories. It’s a whacky tale written for junior readers aged about 8 plus – and I’m glad to see it because not many books are published in New Zealand for this level.
Charlie is sick of feeling poor. He decides to make money by becoming a TV chef, and his first attempt at haute cuisine finds him gathering, feeding, cleaning, and cooking a bunch of garden snails – with some very funny problems along the way. When that meal is not a success, he fortunately gives up the idea of cooking frogs’ legs and tries some magic spells instead. The spells are meant to make a local bully see the error of his ways.
Finally Charlie and his sidekick, Millie, cook up a batch of Snazzlepops (biscuits) for the school fair – and these are a great success because they include popping sugar (which really exists) and Fumovanadix granules which produce blue smoke (and don’t exist, according to Google).
The story is humorous, fast-moving, and full of action, and should keep the interest of readers, especially boys. My only criticism is of the middle portion of the story where Charlie and Millie (and, strangely, Charlie’s granny) set up spells to reform a bully called Ivan. This portion of the story introduces a puzzling fantasy element which doesn’t integrate well with the light-hearted, realistic tone of the first and last sections of the story.
But the book is not aimed at picky adult reviewers like me, and I’m sure keen readers will be attracted by the goofy cover and will devour the story quite happily.
PS. There are useful Teachers’ Notes at www.makaropress.co.nz.
ISBN 978 0 9941379 3 7 RRP $25 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman