Saturday 20 May 2017

Archie Appleby: The Terrible Case of the Creeps

Archie Appleby: The Terrible Case of the Creeps by Kaye Baillie, illustrated by Krista Brennan (Wombat Books) PB  RRP $10.99 ISBN 9781925563016

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This slim chapter book tells what happens when Archie has to spend two days with his scary Aunt Ruth.  He’s a boy with a vivid imagination who likes making up stories. She’s a keen gardener who knows a lot about poisons and weird plants. Her husband, Uncle Jock, seems to have disappeared.  

Late at night Aunt Ruth takes food down to something in her deep, dark basement. Archie is convinced she is keeping Uncle Jock down there a prisoner and bravely decides to rescue him. After two failed attempts he manages to discover what is really in the basement. Not his uncle --  who arrives fit and well from a fishing trip -- but a monstrous plant, a Venus Flytrap Gigantus. (Shades here of The Little Shop of Horrors, although this plant isn’t a man-eater.)

Luckily everything ends well. Archie and Aunt Ruth are reconciled and he goes home considering the possibility of another visit.

The carefully chosen language, clear print and short sentences make it an easy read. Newly independent readers will enjoy the building sense of suspense and the humorous way Archie misinterprets events.  The book would also be good to read aloud.

Krista Brennan has contributed a number of delicate line-drawings. There is a mismatch, though, between the pictures of Archie smiling mischievously as he enters the basement, and the descriptions in the text of what he felt: ‘his heart pounded,’ and ‘he shuddered at the thought of going to the basement in the dark.’  

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