adventure books, books for boys, books for girls, books for older readers, books with dyslexic characters, Clive King, crime books for children, Me and My Million, Sting of the Dump, The Town that went South
Clive King is probably best well known as the author of the perennial children’s classic: ‘Stig of the Dump.’ It is a book that is still taught in classrooms today and which was certainly a favourite of mine as a child. I read and re-read it numerous times. I also watched it on television, and it has been serialised more than once.
He is probably less well known for his book: ‘The Town That Went South,’ although it is a book I also read and enjoyed as a child.
I had however, never heard of ‘Me and My Million’, until I stumbled across it at the end of last year, stuffed on a library shelf.
I finally got round to reading it this weekend.
I can see why it doesn’t have the lasting appeal of Stig. The plot of Stig of the Dump means that it is timeless, and Me and My Million is very much of its time. It is set in the Seventies and is a very dated read now. I enjoyed it because certain parts of it reminded me of my own childhood. I’d be interested to see what a modern child thinks of it.
Me and My Million is narrated by the eleven year old, Ringo, a dyslexic child who avoids school where people just think he’s thick. His home life is not the best and Ringo spends a lot of time drifting aimlessly around with nobody particularly caring where he is or what he’s doing.
Ringo has an older half brother, Elvis, and one day Elvis takes Ringo on a trip out. They end up in a stately home which is also an art gallery, where Elvis shows Ringo a picture that is worth £1million. Elvis can’t quite get his head around this, or the fact that Elvis and his mate are going to steal it. He’s used to Elvis stealing things, just not old paintings.
Elvis wants Ringo to help him, by taking the picture from the scene of the crime and dropping it off at a laundrette in Tottenham Hale. Ringo agrees, and the first part of the plan goes smoothly, until Ringo mixes up the numbers 14 and 41 and gets on the wrong bus.
He spends the next few days moving around London from venue to venue with his painting, getting into scrapes and bumping into all sorts of people who want to part him from the picture. With more luck than judgement, Ringo navigates his way through it all with aplomb.
This is a really fast paced adventure story. The glory of having Ringo virtually illiterate and young is that everything is unusual and inexplicable to him. The everyday things we take for granted, seen through Ringo’s untutored eyes are marvellous and strange. It is this sense of wonder that holds the book up through its many flaws and plot holes and a really rushed and badly put together ending.
I think, if I had discovered this at primary school I would have loved it, because I would have been more like Ringo, and less questioning, less knowledgeable, less able to point out things that wouldn’t have happened in the way they do in the book. As it is now, with age, and technology and the world having moved on, the book really doesn’t hang together well at all.
Having said that, Ringo is a great character and there are some really nice set pieces. I particularly enjoyed Ringo’s night at the tube station and his encounter with what he calls the ‘angels’. At times it reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, although it hasn’t got the magic of Neverwhere.
I’d recommend it for readers aged 7-12, both boys and girls.