Reviewed by K. M. Lockwood
Published by Random House Children's Publishers UK (David Fickling Books)
Published on the 30 August 2012
RULES FOR STAYING ALIVE IN PANDEMONIUM
1. Don’t ever go there. Don’t even think of going there. Look, you really, really don’t want to know. The people aren’t friendly at all. In fact, it’s stretching a point to call them ‘people’
Summary from The Hive Network
Everyone has a Lifetime Deed Counter (LDC).
It works like this:
You offer to help with the housework: Lifetime Good Deeds +1.
You steal your little brother's sweets: Lifetime Bad Deeds +1. Looks straightforward, huh? But what if your every thought was disputed by opposing forces of good and evil - by an angel wearing ray bans (called Windleberry) and a demon in the form of a wart (called Muddlespot)? And within your mind they were fighting a fierce battle over your actions, a battle dictated by a game of poker?
When Muddlespot is promoted from a devil's janitor to special agent, the pressure is on for him to infiltrate Sally Jones and make her Bad. If he doesn't, it will be Very Bad for him. But as his mission leads him down Sally's ear and into the deepest recesses of her mind,
all becomes unclear. Just what does it mean to be good? And can it be good to be bad?
As can be seen from the summary, there’s a good deal of devilish comedy in this story from John Dickinson. Ideal for bright readers from 9 upwards with a wicked sense of humour and an interest in fairness, this book deals with some big concepts in a light-hearted way.
It is not for the very squeamish – though I should say any violence is of a cartoon, slapstick style and unlikely to cause nightmares for most children. It’s fast-moving and moves around a fair deal in location. Sometimes you are in the outer world, sometimes inside Sally’s head. Just occasionally this is a bit tricky. You do need your wits about you but it makes for a lively read.
Notions of right and wrong, fairness and blame are central to the story – but because of the family-based humour and the antics of the demons and angels, it doesn’t preach or get ‘heavy’. You get to see the heroine develop very closely and it’s great fun. The book could work well as a discussion text in PSHE for teachers – though the kids might laugh too much!
There are some great moments set in Sally’s school, and do watch out for Mrs Bunnidy – I won’t spoil her for you.
I found the experiments with different typefaces and other graphics effective and entertaining. I am reviewing from a book proof so I don’t know if the publishers have used any illustrations in the paperback. I think this could work really well with doodles and comments in the margins from Muddlespot and Windleberry.
All-in-all great fun with some thoughtful points made - it will make the right reader laugh out loud at times – and think hard at others.