Arabel and Mortimer
by Joan Aiken
Recommended Ages: 8+
Fans of Roald Dahl and Astrid Lindgren will love this book, part of a series about little Arabel Jones of "Rumbury Town, London N.W. 3?" and her pet raven Mortimer. Illustrated by the same Quentin Blake who so memorably decorated such books as The BFG
and Danny the Champion of the World
, and written by the same author who gave us The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
and The Cockatrice Boys
, it combines laugh-aloud scenes of mischief and mayhem with touches of whimsical irony and rib-tickling silliness.
Arabel and the family raven get up to some far-flung adventures, considering that she is the daughter of an easy-going cab driver and a slightly daffy housewife. Mr. Jones likes his football (that's soccer to you) and Mrs. Jones has an endearing way of muddling up her words. They both seem heroically tolerant of Arabel's feathered friend, who will swallow anything not bolted down and whose antics would be mortifying to most real-life parents. Part of what makes this fantasy so adorable is the way the Jones family takes Mortimer in stride.
In the three short stories (novellas?) included in this book, Arabel and Mortimer rescue a lost gem, run amuck on a cruise ship, save a zooful of zebras and camels from animal thieves, and put their special stamp on the unearthing of King Arthur's round table and the sword Excalibur. Mortimer samples the flavor of a table-tennis set, a bowler hat, and a sewing machine. He tests whether a riding lawnmower can fly, whether a grand piano can float, and whether a giraffe can climb a spiral staircase. And in spite of all his mischief, he and Arabel make lots of friends. Won't you be one of them?
I haven't yet read Arabel's Raven
, the first book in this series. Evidently it is a series you can join at any point. I'm not sure how many different stories are in it, since they seem to have been published separately and collected in various ways. But I do recommend this charming series of humorous child-and-animal adventures to anyone who senses the comic potential of doughnuts, nose organs, lavender paint, and a bird that often mutters, "Nevermore!"
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