Charlie and The Great Escape by Hilary Mckay is one of a series of books about the eponymous hero, Charlie. My son was given this as his first reading book in his new school. Prior to this we had never heard of Charlie, but after reading it, I am sure we will be going to our local library and finding more in the series.
The Charlie books seem perfect if you are a fan of Horrid Henry. Charlie is very much a Henry figure. He has the same lack of awareness that the things that he does and says are rude and/or naughty. There are however, differences which make Charlie and his adventures a much more appealing prospect to me.
Firstly, Charlie’s family are under no illusions about his behaviour, but unlike Horrid Henry’s parents they do not blatantly make a favourite of Charlie’s brother, like Henry’s parents do with Perfect Peter. Nor do they insist that everything Charlie does is terrible, or that everything Max does is wonderful. They seem like more realistic, more affectionate people than Henry’s parents. I hate the way Henry’s parents are so blinkered when anyone with half a brain can see that Perfect Peter is just as vile as Henry in a different way.
Secondly, there is a real sense that Charlie’s family love him very much, despite the antics he gets up to. They get cross with him, as they should, but they also seem to make the distinction that Charlie is not the total sum of his actions.
This is clearly illustrated in this story in which Charlie has an incredible run of bad luck and does so many awful things that his mum loses patience with him completely. Charlie decides that he is utterly unappreciated and decides to run away, firstly to the gap behind the shed in the garden, and then on to his best friend’s house.
It is obvious from the outset that Charlie’s mum and dad know exactly where Charlie is, but the humour of the story comes from them playing along with Charlie so that he can see for himself what it is like to be without his family. It is not done in a cruel way at all, and I love the way they lure him back to his home with them.
The story has lots of funny moments that made my son laugh out loud. It would work well for boys and girls, although marketed more at boys. I would recommend it for newly confident readers aged 7-10 if they are reading alone, but it would make a fun story to share with younger readers if you are looking for a funny bed time book, or a book to share with the class.
The chapters are short, with clear font and plenty of white space between lines and paragraph breaks. There are good black and white illustrations and the text is not too challenging for a good reader who is not afraid to have a go at the odd tricky word.