Anyone but Ivy Pocket, by Caleb Crisp. Pub. Bloomsbury (ISBN 9781408858639)
Like any good geek, I’ve been enthusing about the stuff I love to my daughter since she was old enough for bed-time stories and early morning cartoons. I’ve introduced her to the joys of Thundercats, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and Terry Pratchett; and together we’ve discovered new classics like Goth Girl, Cindy and Biscuit, and Gravity Falls. Now, working for a review site like Geek Syndicate is awesome for many reasons – not least of which is the panoply of stuff on offer to try out, watch, read and play. My little Summer started to get a bit jealous, so I made her a deal: we would get a book sent out for her if she would help me to review it. Boom! Enter Ivy Pocket and Summer Rose Winton, the newest (unofficial) member of the GS review team…
Ivy Pocket is an orphan who grows up to become a maid and then gets involved in a mystery to do with something called the Clock Diamond. It was given to her by a dying Duchess to give to Matilda Butterfield at her birthday ball in Butterfield Park, but everyone wants to get hold of it first.
I liked everything about the book, especially that I knew more about what was happening than Ivy. She thinks she is the best at everything. She lies all the time, making up stories that she thinks must be true. She likes to use words like ‘monstrously’ and other words that are over the top. She is very funny and very stupid but she is the hero.
She is also really rude to the posh people, like Lady Elizabeth. I really liked Lady Elizabeth because she was really mean and really old and bad things kept happening to her like having cheesecake splatted all over her face.
Most of the time I understood what was happening but sometimes I was a bit befuddled. It didn’t spoil the story though, it made it more fun. I hope there is another Ivy Pocket book soon.
The first thing I have to say is that I found Anyone but Ivy Pocket an absolute joy to read aloud. There is something of the pantomime in the mixture of melodrama and farce, and it cries out for silly voices. (I Love putting on silly voices!) The best books for bed-time are the ones that the parents can enjoy as much as the children. I found the plotting and character motivations a little too scatter-shot and obscure to fully get into it but I took real pleasure in the responses the book drew from my daughter. One minute she would be (quite literally) falling about the place with laughter, the next she would be grabbing the book from my hands to pore over the illustrations (by John Kelly) and she would always beg me to read ‘one more bit.’
Ivy Pocket is a wonderful creation. At 12 years old she is of a relatable age yet, given the Victorian setting, holds far greater responsibility and independence than our current crop of children are used to. She is sparky, fun, and wields a wide vocabulary that demonstrates (and encourages) a love of descriptive language. She is also something of a super-weapon in the class war, being both utterly innocent and breath-takingly rude. Although it is true to say she would not have survived the story without the protection of the magical clock diamond, we very much get the impression that ‘polite society’ does not destroy her because it simply doesn’t know how to handle someone who is completely blind to society’s rules. In this way, Krisp is able to mock the upper classes and show his toffs up for the hypocrites that they are.
Personally, I felt the book was a little flabby, as though the author lost his way and just trod water for a bit. It’s all relatively entertaining but the middle section feels like a waiting game, slowing the pace right down. It also introduces a lot of unnecessary plot wrinkles; many of which are not satisfactorily resolved by the end. According to Harper Collins, this is the first of a four book series, so I suppose it was all setting things up. It’s just a shame it wasn’t layered in with a little more efficiency. That’s just my picky editor’s opinion though. My nine year old girl adored it and when book 2 arrives (in due course) I’m going to have loads of fun reading it to her – because I have all the natural instincts of a monstrously geeky and fun-loving dad.