I’d read this children’s book with great enjoyment a few years ago, after Ali visited West Sussex Writers and gave a lively, informative talk on writing for children. But having recently bought my granddaughter a Kindle Fire so she can listen to books she enjoys, a very looong, boring drive in slow-moving holiday traffic was sweetened by hearing the adventures of Rachel and Ben, Polly and Freddy beautifully narrated by Glen McCready.
It is 1956. Freddy and Polly have never minded helping their genius father with his experiments. Even when that means being put into cryonic suspension having their hearts frozen…. It is 2009. Ben and Rachel have resigned themselves to a long, dull summer when they find the hidden underground vault in the garden and inside it two frozen figures, a boy and a girl…Can Polly and Freddy adapt to the 21st century?
This is an excellent book – the overarching story is exciting enough, but the joy of this book is the continual difficulties experienced by Polly and Freddy in acclimatising to life in 2009 after being in cryonic suspension for 53 years. Sparkes has clearly done her research and the result is at times poignant, at times surprising and often laugh-aloud funny. We spent our time in traffic jams giggling at the lovely humorous touches, rather than fuming at the slow pace of our journey to Ringwood. Polly and Freddy are fitter and tougher than Ben and Rachel – but their gender roles are far more rigid. Polly blithely assumes that Rachel will help with the domestic chores, and the boys don’t need to. Some of their other attitudes are jarring, too.
Back in the era of the Cold War, there were political tensions and rivalries that mean Polly and Freddy’s brilliant father could have drawn down unwelcome attention from plenty of people. And when his children are finally woken up from their frozen sleep, all they want to do is discover what happened to him, and why he didn’t wake them up in a few days as had always happened before.
Sparkes’ sharp observations on the differences between children of the 1950’s and now has stayed with me since we finished listening to the adventure. I have promised myself that when I have the time, I shall sit down and play it again. This superbly told and well written story deserves my undivided attention.