I am a massive fan of Odo Hirsch and I often recommend his books to the students who visit my school library. I am such a fan that when people talk about inviting six authors to an imaginary dinner party Odo Hirsch is always at the top of my list. Read his book Hazel Green to see why I would bake Chocolate Dippers.
I bought home the audio book of Bartlett and the Ice Voyage which I first read in 1998. There have been times over the last weeks when I just could not get out of my car because I needed to listen to a little more of this engrossing story. I can see why this book was short listed for the Blue Peter Award in 2001.
The Queen is given every treasure you can imagine for her birthday from every part of her extensive kingdom but the one thing she desires is a melidrop. They grow in a far away land and spoil one day after picking.
"People sent melidrop seeds, but they failed to shoot. They sent melidrop trees, but their leaves curled up and died. Then the people tried sending melidrop fruit, but no matter how early they picked them, the fruit always spoiled in the box. The Queen would open the packing case to find a disgusting, smelly pile of darkened melidrop skins."
The Queen is desperate to taste this exotic fruit but she is unwilling to travel the vast distance needed. One of her advisers, Sutton Pufrock, introduces the queen to Bartlett and his friend Jacques le Grand. Sir Hugh Lough is not impressed :
"this famous Bartlett was about as dashing a milkman. He had freckles on his face and his hair was obviously not very friendly with his comb. His fingers were knobbly. He came to see the queen in a plain shift, patched trousers and a pair of worn leather boots ... creased and creviced as a turtle's neck."
Bartlett does find a way to transport the precious melidrop. You need to read the story for yourself but his method is quite inventive and perhaps surprising.
There is so much to discuss as you read this book. How can Bartlett bring back a melidrop? Should he try to bring a large quantity? Will the Queen even like the fruit and will this satisfy her desire for unusual gifts? Odo Hirsch is a master of description - so many parts of this book could be used as writing models for your class.
My favourite scenes involve food (as usual). When Lord Roland of Tull visits the Queen each Thursday he enjoys eating her little butter cakes and sipping tea. After months of waiting Bartlett has not returned with the precious melidrop. The Queen is impatient and furious and she now shuns Lord Roland but one day he does come for tea. "He stared. There were lemon slices on the plate. Where were the butter cakes? What had the queen done with the butter cakes?" You are sure to grimace as he is forced to do more than take a dainty bite of this bitter slice.
Here are my reviews of two other Odo Hirsch titles - Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool, Darius Bell and the crystal bees.
Our copy of Bartlett and the Ice Voyage is in very bad shape so once again I have searched a second hand seller and found a copy. It is on the way. Here is a five minute audio sample from page 10 onwards describing the giraffe which the Queen is given as one of her multiple gifts. This book is also available from itunes. Here is the Kirkus review.
I would pair this book with The Greatest Treasure of Charlemagne the King and The quiltmakers gift.