Monday, June 14, 2010

The remarkable secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen by Deborah Abela

I recently attended a talk where the speakers tried to guess which books might be short listed for the CBC 2010 awards. One speaker just sparkled when she talked about The remarkable secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen so with this in mind I sat down last night to read this new book by Deborah Abela.

I lifted my head 2 hours and 275 pages later…. This book just sped along and I loved it from beginning to end. It has all the elements for me that make a great story – friendship, food, a love story, twists and turns, strong characters, the triumph of good over evil, oh and did I mention food.

If you are a fan of Odo Hirsch you must read this book. If you loved Hazel Green you will adore Aurelie Bonhoffen. One thing I don’t do very well when I read a book is notice chapter headings. I am glad I missed the first one in this book because I was in for such a marvelous surprise. The opening scene is of a girl in a coffin with undertakers preparing for her burial. “She had been carefully laid out. Gentle hands smoothed down her white silk dress, combed her soft curls and brushed on her make-up so her cheeks looked like two faintly pink cherry blossoms.” Just as everything appears to be ready a train arrives. I immediately thought it was a train from the underworld. This is not the case, however, Aurelie and her two uncles are part of a ghost train act which itself is part of a carnival found down at the pier. The Bonhoffens are an old family of circus performers including trapeze artists, jugglers, magic act and animals (well people who dress up as animals). We discover all these talented people really early in the story because the story opens on the day of Aurelie’s birthday and everyone has planned a marvelous surprise party which includes delicious cloudberry juice and blackforest cake with extra Belgium chocolate.

Deborah Abela makes all the food in this book sound so delicious… "The smell of chocolate drifted though the air as Lilliana (Aurelie’s grandmother) poured her brew into two large mugs. She spooned freshly whipped cream on top, followed by sprinkled flakes of chocolate.”

The evil and aptly named Mr Crook is out to evict the Bonhoffens and take over the pier. He has blackmailed the mayor who is weak and vain. In a lovely twist Aurelie makes friends with Rufus, the son of the Mayor, and together with Aurelie's fun loving uncles and one very special ghost, the are able to avert disaster.

This book was not shortlisted for 2010 which seems such a shame but I do hope you can find a copy to enjoy – do this quickly in case it goes out of print like so many other of my favourite books.

There are teachers notes too.

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