“Awful Uncle Aleister”

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From today’s UK Times children’s book reviews by Amanda Craig:

Jane Johnson’s The Secret Country gets it absolutely right.

The editor in charge of the Tolkien estate gives us a few familiar features in her tale of a young boy who discovers his gravely ill mother is the Queen of Eidolon, a magical world swarming with dragons, elves and goblins.

Ben goes into a pet shop to buy Mongolian fighting fish with his pocket money, but is stopped by a determined talking cat which tells him that Eidolon is in danger. one of the chief crooks importing its fauna to our world is none other than Ben’s Awful Uncle Aleister, bent on providing direwolfs, sabre-toothed tigers and camelopards to human hunters frustrated by mere foxes.

Before long Ben and his new friends are dodging the evil Dodman and a host of goblins and enjoying an adventure perfect for readers of 7+. There are children like mine who will read any book with a dragon on the cover, but this one stands out thanks to its charming and humorous mixture of the mundane and the magical.

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