The author, Helen Ryan contacted me and asked if I would review her book, McSorely’s Evil Tea in exchange for a copy of the book. This is just to be absolutely transparent about where books reviewed on Making Them Readers are sourced from. I will always divulge if I have been gifted a copy of something. Otherwise all copies reviewed are my own. I agreed to take the book, and here is my honest opinion of it.
McSorely’s Evil Tea has two main narratives. Firstly it tells the story of Sky Swift and her mother River, who are being hunted down by the McSorely’s Evil Tea company. It also tells the story of the fortunes of the Birdwhistle Tea dynasty, starting with the story of Byron Birdwhistle, a famous explorer, botanist and heir to the Birdwhistle Tea fortune. Eventually the two strands of story collide in the present time with very interesting results.
McSorely’s Evil Tea are a company bent on growth. In order to do that they need to infect as many people as possible with their evil tea bags. They use small, gifted children to make the tea, trying to bump off their parents so they can get clean away with the children. Sky is one of those children, and the story starts with a representative of McSorely’s, Mr. Snickering, trying to snatch Sky and kill her mother. Sky manages to use her resourcefulness and a special skill that McSorely’s had not reckoned on to get away from Mr. Snickering’s clutches, but can she save her mother and thwart McSorely’s plans?
The book has all sorts of adventures within it from piracy on the high seas to flesh eating gorillas and cyber-technology. If you’re a fan of a fast paced adventure story with lots of new adventures at every turn, this is the book for you. There is no time to get bored with the relentless pace this book sets.
What I really warmed to in the book were the elements of playful silliness that stop the book from being too dark, and I would warn that for younger readers there are a couple of quite grisly moments which, could be quite upsetting and do need a bit of lightening with humour in other places to give balance to the book. The more bonkers, surreal elements of the story reminded me rather of a cross between Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I think children will really enjoy these parts.
The language is, in parts, quite sophisticated, and despite the chapter book format, and relatively short length, this really needs a fairly confident reader if it is being read without any guidance at all. I’d recommend it for readers aged 7-12 as long as they were confident with new vocabulary. It would make a great transitional book or guided reader in schools too. It has a great selection of characters of both gender, none of which are typecast and all of whom have interesting things to bring to the story.
Although this is a standalone adventure in which everything is resolved at the end of the book, the epilogue suggests there may be more to come.
Helen Ryan is an author who is new to me, but I hope she will pick up more fans with this book and become wider known. If you want to find out more about her, you can check out her website, here.