Review by Louise Cannon at Bookmarks and Stages
@Lou_bookmarks / bookmarksandstages.home.blog
Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian is a fictional book that is perfect for Christmas, but it is also one that can be read all year round. It does mention Christmas, but that's not the main crux of the story.
There are strong themes of mental health, family relationships, separation, loss, being from the care system, dealing with issues, self discovery, throughout this book. They are all written in a sensitive, tangible and realistic way. There is however some humour to be found within this book too, which really lifts it and adds to the life of the tale.
The story is complex, but not overly so, since it is well plotted. It would hit its target audience of 9-12 year olds who are good readers very well. It is age appropriate for this age group in the way the themes and language used are handled.
This book is firmly in the crossover market because it would suit any child from 9, teenager/YA and adult. It would easily suit people who enjoy either fantasy and/or tales that take you on a journey through life and of mental health. I would recommend for its target "crossover" audience.
We immediately meet Tony Plumb who is not just thirteen, but thirteen and a half years old to be precise. He is at Evensham Social Services to see Ms Bendy Leggett (whose name I just love for its humour). We get to know that he was in a children's care home in Daisy Bank. I like that there is no hanging around to meet the main protagonist and to get to begin to know and understand him. The story has instantly begun and starts at a good pace, which remains constant throughout the book.
Before long, Tony has entered the mysterious place of Ellodian. The story goes between this world and the world of the therapy he receives.
The thought processes of Tony and the moles are in a different font and style. This is an ingenious idea because it doesn't detract from the narrative of the story and flows very smoothly. It also looks effective and fun on the pages, making the story easy to read and follow. We actually get to know that Tony has what he calls "thought chariots". I love this description, already it depicts what is going on and gives a real insight into the state of his mind. It gave a sense of true feeling about what he was going through.
Enter the unique world of Ellodian
The mysterious, dark place of Ellodian is where Tony is sent to, with his parrot - McGurney. It's an adventure like no other! As a reader I found myself being immersed into this world very easily. We meet new characters, more authoritative adults for Tony to contend with - Miss Frankly and Mrs Sherbet and Prospect . Again, I just love the humour of the names.
The entire world of Ellodian that readers are thrust into is well described and mysterious, with odd uniforms which makes you question: Who or What are The Moles?
As you read on, I am sure you too will find yourself totally immersed because you want to know more and you will discover the significance of the moles. This is a world that I found myself not being able to help myself wanting to know what more curiosities it had to offer.
Tony finds himself on a mission to discover the answers of 3 questions. These aren't any ordinary questions. They are exploratory questions about himself. Let's just say, not the types of questions you would normally be asked in everyday conversation. I think this just adds to the mystery of the main character of Tony Plumb and who he truly is as a person. The questions are effectively set out, easy to understand and moves the story onwards very well and is created in such a way that feeds into the curiosity of the imagination. It becomes even more thought-provoking. By this time, I had already invested in the main protagonist, so I needed to know if all the questions were answered, how and what the actual answers are and the truth of Tony Plumb. I also wanted to know by this stage, what Ellodian actually was.
I enjoyed meeting Mrs Heapey - a psychotherapist by profession. In amongst the talk about mole friends, there is a real emotion that comes through from Tony. It is sensitively and realistically written, when we learn a bit more about the relationship between him and his parents. Quickly, I was captured and I think even our younger readers will be too. Tony also at this point, becomes even more likeable than what he ever was to begin with. We begin to get much more of a sense of his life. This isn't just an adventure/fantasy book with some character or other leading you through many paths. It's more than that. The main protagonist is 3 dimensional with real issues, real emotions and is a character to invest fully into.
Perfax is an intriguing character with major issues, which we see quickly and get the understanding of his temperament. He is a character that, although comes very much later in the book, is so well written.
Evensham Social Worker Department is returned to in the book. It gives it some grounding and shows the depth of Tony. The story, as it goes between Evensham and the world of Ellodian is written in a way that any reader will be able to follow.
The book concludes very well, it left me satisfied and I am sure it will leave anyone else reading this well written, well paced book, feeling the same. All in all it is a thought-provoking story and the balance between the issues and the fantasy elements are well-balanced. There are also the most unexpected twists and turns that are written in an inspired way of creating more drama. This also develops the story further and adds to the intrigue into how the story can possibly end. I would say - take a chance on this debut child/YA/adult cross-over novelist and discover what is real and what is not in Tony Plumb's life. Discover the world of Ellodian and allow yourself to be taken on a journey. You won't be disappointed!
With thanks for J.M. Smith for writing to me with extra information about herself, for sending me a message/request to review her book and for sending me a copy of her book and an accompanying card/bookplate.