REVIEWED BY DYMPHNA CROWE
Sophie Green (Piccadilly Press: 2019)
Although Sophie Green’s Potkin and Stubbs trilogy is aimed at a children’s audience, I found
the story gripping, atmospheric and entertaining. The vivid, descriptive writing is matched perfectly with the illustrations. The book shares qualities with graphic novels as well as the nuance of an old, black and white film noir.
In the first book we meet Lil and Nedly, whose exploits and witty interactions are central to the story. Lil, the heroine, is ‘a wiry 12-year-old with cup handle ears and a belly full of ambition’ (p. 3). She is an aspiring investigative reporter with dreams of joining the staff of the Klaxon. This is a secret, weekly, political newspaper, which arrives hidden in the takeaway menu of a fictional restaurant. Lil’s mother works long hours at the Town Hall, leaving Lil free to roam the bleak city in search of a scoop. She soon meets Nedly, a pale, ghostly boy, desperate to discover his past, and the unlikely duo set out to investigate the sinister goings-on in Peligan. The corrupt mayor of the city controls the press, the police and local government and has closed all the schools and libraries. But we quickly learn that Nedly is invisible to all but Lil, so he provides a useful ally in covert investigations. The duo also team up with Abe Mandrell, a once famous detective who has fallen on hard times.
The author sprinkles hints and cues through the first book, which are explored and developed as the story unfolds. We also get glimpses of light and hope in the moody darkness. There is Lil with her bright yellow mac, the hidden library with the mysterious librarian and Abe who, underneath his tough, grubby exterior, has a caring heart. Throughout the trilogy, each book adds further dimensions to the story. Lil gains an apprenticeship at the Klaxon, Nedly faces new danger and the fast paced narrative leads the reader to the final chapter, in book three, with all the questions answered.
I bought the first book for my grandson Theo, then aged ten, and he was impatient for the next instalment. I witnessed the books’ growing popularity when I was surrounded in our local bookshop by excited 9-12 year olds, at the launch of the second book in the series. Sophie Green has woven a compelling and well written tale that will intrigue a reader of any age.
We are delighted to be hosting local author and Children’s Librarian, Sophie Green, on Wednesday 19th April 2023 at the Ipswich Institute.