‘Are you dead?’
‘What?’ ‘I said, are you dead?’ asked the vulture. ‘Only we can’t eat you if you’re still alive.’ ‘That’s good to know.’ ‘Yes, because we are carrion eaters and that means dead stuff,’ said the vulture. ‘Not dying or nearly dead, can’t do that. We have to hang around until you’re completely dead, preferably a week or two after when you’re nice and rip and have that lovely sickly sweet smell that us vultures adore.’ ‘I am not dead,’ said Valla. ‘You sure?’ ‘Of course.’ ‘You look dead,’ said the vulture. ‘Well, it’s nice of you to say so, but no, I am not dead.’
Better Homes and Gardens is the eighth and final title in The Floods series from Colin Thompson. The first began in Transylvania Waters and now the reader is brought full circle as Mordonna, Nerlin and their family return home. Homecomings are often both better and worse than expected and so it is here. The old king and his new wife are not popular but have developed a style of leadership which brooks no resistance. The people of Transylvania Waters have been oppressed for so long and weakened by a diet of cabbage have little power to resist. But the appearance of the rightful royals sparks some life back into the population. Slowly life in the remote kingdom begins to change.
There is little that is predictable in this family adventure. It begins with a conversation with a vulture who is sure one of the Floods must be dead (and therefore menu-worthy) and becomes more absurd from there. And very funny…and punny. The text is interspersed with illustrations that extend the humour. Each member of the family has special skills and their moment ‘in the sun’ as they go about the business of reclaiming the throne (sometimes quite literally too as they clear the pollution that has shrouded the kingdom for years). The ‘baddies’ are very bad and the ‘goodies’ are frequently very odd. Footnotes sometimes provide explanations and sometimes are just asides from the author. For a reader, it is as if the author is sitting there reading along with them. Better Homes and Gardens is warm, absurd, punny and ridiculous. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
The Floods: Better Homes & Gardens, Colin Thompson
Random House 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com