‘Caddys major, intermediate and minor, put down your snakes!’
Well, we most certainly do. This is Charlie Boo, after all. The bravest, cleverest butler in the entire universe – trained in martial arts in Rangoon and hat-frisbeeing in Haiti, and an endless source of chocolate airplanes that appear, thrillingly, at unexpected moments. Which could be now. In fact, Scruff’s got his tongue out in readiness. Four green tree snakes are unwrapped quick-smart from four necks. Not missing out on this one. Four green tree snakes are plopped on the lion skin in front of us.
Kick, Scruff, Bert and Pin are four children accustomed to managing – sort of – on their own. They are living with their eccentric uncle Basti in his house in post-WWII London. Their father, thought lost, is found, but is very unwell. And for the first time in a long time, there’s a whiff of hope that their mother is still alive. And if there’s even a hope, the Caddy’s are not going to ignore it. So as their father is sent off to get better, they slip away to follow the scant clues they had. But the clues lead them far away and into the clutches of Lady Adora, owner of the Icicle Illuminarium. She has plans of her own, and it seems that their arrival may just bring all her plans together. But she has of course reckoned without the ingenuity and bravery of these four young Australians and their friends.
The Icicle Illuminarium follows ‘The Kensington Reptilarium’ which brought the four Caddy children to London. They may have a new home for now, but there is still much of the wild Australian outback in each and all of them. Caddy is reluctant substitute mother to the other three, a mantle she wears heavily, and which comes with many challenges particularly from Scruff and Bert. But she’s trying. And at the bottom of all her doubt and bossiness, is a fierce love and protectiveness for her siblings. These are wild children, unbound by convention. This is a story about family, in myriad formations. The Icicle Illuminarium is told from Kick’s perspective with all the fallibility of the first person narrative. Like ‘The Kensington Reptilarium’, The Icicle Illuminarium is a wild romp through adventure and danger, complete with red herrings, ghostly boys, madness and dastardly plots. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
The Icicle Illuminarium, N J Gemmell
Random House 2014 ISBN: 9780857985675
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller