The first time I met Emma Kennedy, she fell over onto a bucket and ended up covered in pee. That was in the first few pages of a book suitably entitled The Tent, The Bucket and Me, about her childhood memories of her parents’ catastrophic attempts at holidaymanship, and it made me laugh, cringe and gasp from beginning to end. Sometimes all at the same time.
So it came as quite a surprise when she announced her new book on Twitter, and it turned out to be a “children’s book”.
I have always disliked that phrase, it sounds so demeaning, so down-putting. I have always enjoyed books for kids, ever since I was litt… Ok, yeah, but still. No, seriously, among the books I have happily read and re-read over and over, there are quite a few Roald Dahls, Arthur Ransoms, Monica Edwards, J.K. Rowlings and other such “kid-litt”-branded works. So I thought what the hell, and once she had assured me there were no buckets involved this time, I ordered E.K.’s new baby there and then.
The first thing I liked about Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Frozen Hearts, on opening my bubble-wrap envelope, was the cover. Not just the funky illustrations, but the fact that it included little panels of heat-sensitive ink that let you uncover hidden clues. I felt like I was 10 again, and played with it for at least 5 minutes. That’s about 3 months in ten-year-old time.
So what’s the story? Well, Wilma Tenderfoot is an orphan, with a bit of a stalker-thing for the famous detective Theodore P. Goodman. She lives on an island that no-one has yet discovered, and you soon realise, as you sink gently into the story (or it sinks into you) that things are rather different there. I won’t spoil it for you, but the whole of Wilma’s universe is full of that slightly insane sense of fun you’d find in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That fantastic sense of humour I had discovered in that first autobiographical book was just perfect for this colourful, funky fantasy world.
Actually, it doesn’t really matter what category a book is filed in – and believe me, my inner librarian is just cringing at the fact that I just typed that – because sometimes they are just so much more than that. The Tent, the Bucket and Me was filed under “Travel books”. Seriously. So don’t let the “children’s book” label fool you. It’s a great read, you will enjoy it, I promise. (Terms and conditions apply)
Oh, and there’s a beagle in it. Emma Kennedy has a beagle called Poppy. Anyone who has a beagle can’t be a bad person. So I’ll even forgive her for her Twitter-obsession with Big Brother. I guess nobody is perfect.