Thursday, December 27, 2012

Small change for Stuart by Lissa Evans

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a word that comes to mind after reading this brilliant book Small Change for Stuart.   I have said this many times but I am absolutely sure you will enjoy this book.  I started to read it after breakfast, I had to go out for a couple of hours and then, over lunch, I finished it.  In fact I delayed my afternoon plans just so I could keep reading...

Stuart has moved to the town where his dad lived as a boy.  Stuart is a small boy with the unfortunate name of S Horten.  In his old town he had plenty of friends and life was good but now he is alone.  His dad writes cross word puzzles and has an extreme interest in obscure words and his mother is a doctor, the sort who peers down a microscope.  She has a new job and this is why the family need to move.

Stuart and his dad go for a walk or a perambulation and as they walk his father tells Stuart some things about the family especially about Great Uncle Tony who was a magician and about the family business where they made mechanisms "Locks and safes ... then the business diversified into coin-operated machinery."  The most important thing his father mentions is a money box that Uncle Tony gave him just before he disappeared.  When they arrive home Stuart retrieves the money box, discovers a hidden compartment where he finds eight threepenny bits.  These are going to be very important as Stuart tries to unlock the mystery of his Uncle and his magic.  Along the way Stuart makes some wonderful friends including the girl next door called April.  She has huge amounts of determination and is a brilliant help to Stuart as he works his way through a series of very cryptic clues.

First stop is the local library.  Stuart is chased by the triplet girls next door, including April, and in desperation he jumps into a red phone box to escape.  While he is standing there the phone rings even though it is clear the cord has been cut.  Stuart answers the phone and it is a call for him from the Beeton Public Library telling him his book is ready.

"I have the book here. Fascinating little volume - it was published in nineteen twenty-three, you know.' From behind the desk he took out a tiny paperback with a faded pink cover and a cracked spine.  It had very few pages....(Stuart) took the book and sat down. It was called Modern Beeton: A photographic record and on each of the eight double pages there was a snapshot of the town."

Stuart sees pictures of the phone box, railway station, swimming pool, cinema, petrol station, fairground and a bandstand.  Oddly there is one blank page and a little boy in every picture with a slightly blurred face.  These will be the places where his clues will lead him.

I do not want to spoil this story - it is a mystery after all.  Here is a review that might convince you, if I haven't, to read this book.  Here is another review!  This book reminded me of The Boy with Magic Numbers which I read recently and strangely also Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg. One more piece of great news - there is a sequel to this book called Big Change for Stuart.  Here is an interview with the author where oddly these two books have very different titles.  One more thing this book is easy to read because there is so much lovely white space.  The margins are wide the the print is large - I really like this.

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