Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Exploding Cheese, by Alan Sunderland

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

If Living Next to Lulah (by Nette Hilton, also newly released by Harper Collins) appeals mostly to girls, I have no doubt boys will gobble up this quirky tale of Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Exploding Cheese.Octavius is a senior investigator of the police force who is trying to track down a criminal gang. Nothing so unusual about that perhaps, except that Octavius (Ocko to his friends) is a rat. A furry rat that hates cheese but loves doughnuts. He is trying to get a lead to capture the notorious River Road Mouse Gang.

This book is big on slapstick humour. The scene on page 6 is very funny. There are others, interspersed with jokes and puns like that of Kurt Remarque the biggest property owner in Rodent City.

Something about the case of the exploding cheese factory concerns Ocko but he is unprepared for what he discovers. In the process of solving the crime and stopping an even worse crime, that of poisoning all the rats and mice in Rodent City, Ocko is forced into some strange liaisons.

Filled with action, humour and amusing black and white illustrations throughout that add to the text, this book is sure to be a hit with primary aged children, in particular boys. I believe teachers and librarians will find this disappearing from classroom and library shelves as soon as it is returned. The novel is not all humour and action though. In the hands of a skilful educator, the way the monkey people (translate humans) look down on rats and the rats have a similar attitude to and oppress mice, could lead into an interesting discussion about society and the way one group of people oppresses another.

This is the first in a series of adventures featuring Octavius O’Malley.

Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Exploding Cheese, by Alan Sunderland
Angus&Robertson an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. ARP $14.99AUD