Tag Archives: Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize

Ribblestrop what?

I picked this book up at the bookstore purely because I loved the name.  It has turned out to be a fantastic read and one I believe kids (boys and girls) can find something to love.

Ribblestrop

Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Beach Lane Books (August 19, 2014)

This book is a UK series that has just made it to the US.  There is a lot to love, hilarious, fun action with unlikely friendships forming under adverse conditions with great writing and in general age appropriate subject matter.  This is a boarding school story set in rural England with a diverse cast of characters.  It takes place in a falling down ramshackle castle with such beloved characters as: a chef / drill sergeant with a metal plate in his head, a son of a drug cartel kingpin in hiding after being tortured, an absent minded professor or two, an old biddy of a landlord and her spoiled brat of a grandson, a pint sized sociopath with pyro tendencies, a plethora of South American orphans, and Sam, the skinny average boy who the story revolves around.  Then there are silent monks, donkeys, and a secret…something.  Sam, the poor kid who just wants to graduate without dying or killing anyone else.  The back cover states the book’s premise with aplomb: “Life is Dangerous”, and living at Ribblestrop is dangerous.  So, can you survive life at Ribblestrop School, or will you try to burn the place down like last year’s students?

This is laugh outloud funny, with a move along plot and quirky characters that just skirt the edge of being both caricatures and a little too irresponsible.  This is the sort of book you read if you are a fan of physical comedy and mystery.  In the real world, a ceramic pot thrown from a second or more story tower window that strikes a child in the skull is likely to do fatal damage and heat stroke and dehydration are not laughing matters.  Nor is casual spraying of machine gun fire in a crowded restaurant.  Heck, most of the book if taken literally is not that funny.  But somehow through the magic of imagination, and frankly a wonderful turn of phrase, the story moves along with characters only getting a little bumped and bruised and everyone laughing….

Parents note there is a fair amount of irresponsible behavior with very little consequences, grey moral issues, and children as young as 12 drinking and smoking.  It somehow manages to do this without making me throw the book across the room but it does seem to treat most of the bad behavior by adults and children alike with an almost glossy coating of fairy dust.  Yes it is bad, but in the end everything turns out ok.