Last week, I got a few strange books when I was out for lunch. There I was sat in a favourite cafe (Fat Frgon in Liskeard if anyone is interested) with a burger and a mug of tea when I started chuckling to myself. Cue a few strange looks from other customers. The reason was that I was reading Great Zargo by A.F. Harrold. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually laughed out loud at a book, but I just couldn’t help myself.
With that introduction, I shouldn’t really need to say how funny this book is. Whether you’re a child or an adult, you will find something that brings a smile to your face – or causes you to laugh uncontrollably. On one hand, there are some absolutely ridiculous slapstick moments. Then there are some clever word plays (serial thief and cereal thief springs to mind) and a nice slice of science fiction for those who like a little more sophistication in our humour. All this is aided by the humourous side notes on each page.
Greta is an orphan, who lives all alone. Thanks to small mix up with her parents’ will. This has turned her into an fiercely independent and determined girl. Her main aim in life is to become a journalist and swoop a top journalistic prize. When cakes mysteriously go missing, Greta sees her chance to begin investigating. As she interviews witnesses and suspects, she soon closes in on the killer. While all this is happening, the death robots from outer space are on their way to earth in order to capture it. Unwittingly Greta has the fate of the whole world in her hands.
The space robots themselves provide a brilliant sub-plot. Throughout the book, chapters describe the ways they have taken over other planets in the galaxy in their quest for universally domination. We are introduced to quirky aliens from far away planets, all of whom gift their planet to the space robots. The increasingly bizarre ways in which this happens are a delight and one of my highlights in the book.
One the other hand, you have the story of Greta, who is an instantly lovable character. It may be a simple whodunit but the narrative fizzes along nicely. Children will love guessing who the cake thief is and may even solve the crime themselves – I can’t believe I didn’t! The illustrations are perfect and really add to the story.
For those wanting some humour, this is a great book to pick up. It would be perfect for a light-hearted class read and a book that almost any child can access. I can’t wait for another Greta Zargo adventure!
Age recommendation: 7-11
Pages: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books