I have had Chris Riddell’s, Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death on my to read pile for quite some time now. It is the sequel to the wonderful: Goth Girl and the Ghost of A Mouse, which I absolutely adored. I knew that once I started this book I would devour it in one sitting, and it would be an absolute pleasure to read, so I have been keeping it for a day when I knew I would savour every moment. Today was that day.
I love Chris Riddell, as those of you who have been reading this blog regularly will probably know. I am a huge champion of his Ottoline books, and very pleased that they are finally being reissued now that Riddell has taken on the mantel of the Children’s Laureate for the next two years. I love his picture books, and his collaborations with Paul Stewart, and his work with Neil Gaiman, and in fact pretty much anything he does.
The Goth Girl books are probably my favourite of his works so far, because I absolutely love all the jokes that work on so many levels and make them into books you read and enjoy whilst also feeling that you are part of the gang that ‘gets’ them. The witty stories are supported by Riddell’s superb illustrations that are so detailed they keep giving and giving the more you look at them. The footnotes, as ever, are joyous, and this time are penned by a ‘well-travelled Muscovy duck’. There is so much care in each story Riddell produces. Even the end papers with their Gothic foil design are exquisite, and there are always hidden extras in every book. In this case, the charming mini book tucked away in the back of the book which tells the story of Marylebone, Ada’s lady’s maid, who also happens to be a spectacled bear from Bolivia with a penchant for Bolivian honey. There is of course, no similarity to her perhaps more famous counterpart, Paddington.
In this book, Ada Goth, daughter of Lord Goth, based on Byron, but in this case: ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to gnomes,’ is beginning to relish her position as his daughter, after the events of the first book forced him to come to terms with the death of his beloved wife and Ada’s mother, Parthenope and acknowledge Ada’s existence.
Lord Goth is on a tour of the Lake District, meeting his poet friends Wordsworthalot and Alfred Tennislesson. While he is gone, Ada continues to take lessons in umbrella duelling from her governess, a 300 year old vampire called Lucy, and attends meetings of the Attic Club with the friends who helped her in her last adventure. All this activity is shaken up by the arrival of Sidney Whimsey, a master of disguise, old friend of Lord Goth, and newly appointed organiser of the usually dull Full-Moon Fete.
This year things promise to be much more exciting, with Lord Whimsy organising an exhibition of paintings by famous artists like J.M.W. Turnip, a steam powered circus run by a family of vampires and a Bake Off competition with entries by the Hairy Hikers and Heston Harboil to name but a few.
Things are not exactly as they seem though, as Maltravers the surly indoor gamekeeper keeps disappearing in clouds of flour, Sidney keeps popping up in multifarious disguises and Ada and the Attic Club become embroiled in mystery once more.
I won’t begin to list the number of people Riddell pokes gentle fun at. There are too many and I don’t want to give away all the jokes, but I confess to chuckling my way through this book with absolute glee. I am sure there are names and puns and jokes that I missed, but as I will read this again and again I am sure that it will continue to yield new jokes and surprises as I do. That’s part of the joy of it.
Having said that, even if you are sharing this with a child and they don’t get everything, it is still a wonderful, funny and clever story that works on so many levels they won’t feel they’re missing out, and hopefully, as they revisit it in future months and years it will yield up more and more with every re-reading.
Ideal for older children aged 7 and up, both boys and girls.