I acquired this book during a library sale when looking for a chapter book to read to my dyslexic granddaughter. It has languished at the back of the bookshelf as she wrinkled her nose at the cover, announcing it was ‘too babyish’. And then Oscar scooped it up and asked me to read it. And I was hooked…
Welcome to paradise! Welcome to white beaches, warm seas and blue skies! Welcome to the best holiday of your life! But something is not right in paradise. Tim and Grk thought they had come to the Seychelles for a peaceful holiday, but instead they find themselves fighting a private army to get to the bottom of the unexplained death of Monsieur X.
This is part of a series featuring Tim, a small boy and his black and white dog who get into all sorts of bother. I was quite shaken at the drama and genuine shock conveyed when he finds a man washed up on the beach and runs for help. The man doesn’t survive and the sense the death is a big deal is very well handled.
The family dynamic is a bit odd. Tim’s parents take him on holiday, but the family pet comes along and there is also Max and Natascha, who are friends of the family. Mr and Mrs Malt are determined to have the holiday of a lifetime and are distressed that Tim gets involved with a dead man, while Tim is determined to try and find out how to get to Calypso Island, which was what the dying man said to him. Trouble is, Calypso Island is privately owned by Edward Goliath, one of the richest men in the world, and he loathes trespassers. The scenes on the island are depicted with plenty of tension and a real sense of danger – the despair of the prisoners and their hopelessness is well portrayed.
As well as some fairly gritty adventure scenes, there are also flashes of humour running through the story. I particularly enjoyed the spiky relationship between Mr and Mrs Malt, who behave extremely badly towards each other when they find themselves stranded on a desert island in the middle of the ocean.
The story is fast-paced and eventful, which of course you’d want for a children’s adventure story. But the really impressive bit is that Frances needs to read every day during the summer holiday and when I asked her to read a couple of pages, I discovered most of the vocabulary came from the core of high frequency words developing readers need to master to be able to become secure, independent readers. And although I am an ex-primary school teacher, I hadn’t spotted this was a book designed for developing readers until Frances found she could comfortably manage most of it.
We all enjoyed the story, which had a climactic ending where all was restored to normality and I am now in the process of tracking down other books in the same series. Doder manages to write an engrossing adventure story using a restricted vocabulary which is a whole lot harder than he makes it look.