Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction, Uncategorized

BOOK REVIEW: The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr

– Short Review –

I love that Chicken House put a three word description on the rear cover of their books, what they have chosen for “The Great Animal Escapade” does pretty much sum it up – Thrilling Animal Adventure.   Following on from “The Elephant Thief” this tells a story at Belle Vue Zoo.  The owner, Mr Jameson, is trying to make it bigger and better but someone is out to sabotage his plans and put him out of business.
If you enjoy this mix of fiction/history you may also enjoy The Mice of the Round Table: A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung

– Longer Review –

Having previously read “The Elephant Thief” (and really enjoyed it) I was thrilled to get the chance to read the next book in the series “The Great Animal Escapade“.  Following directly on from it’s predecessor, we find ourselves back in the fascinating world of Mr and Mrs Jameson, the owners of Belle Vue Zoo – a huge Manchester based menagerie in Victorian Britain.  Having previously rescued Maharajah the Elephant (and street urchin Danny in the process) they are now planning a spectacular show to feature their latest and biggest attraction as the star turn.
The trouble is not everybody loves having a zoo on their doorstep and there are forces aplenty working against them.  When Esmeralda the Emu escapes Danny quickly realises that it wasn’t an accident.  Whoever is behind the sabotage though is crafty because they’ve made sure that Danny is the main suspect.
Reverend Eustace Threlfall, has been vociferously campaigning for the closure on the zoo so is his hand involved?  When Victoria the lioness also escapes the Reverend formally complains to the town council and major – does this mark the end of the zoo?
Undeterred Mr Jameson continues with his grandiose plans for a phenomenal show – featuring a mock battle and fireworks galore.
Despite all the drama, Danny is also distracted by the appearance of an upper class gentleman who is claiming to be his father and trying to persuade him to leave Belle Vue.  Could he possibly abandon the Jamesons who have been so kind to him, Maharajah or best friend Hetty?
There is so much going on in this story that it really is quite unputdownable.  The climax of the action boils down to a race against time and good versus evil, where Danny is literally fighting to save the zoo from being blown up.
What I especially enjoy is, thrilling though this story is, that the tale is loosely   based around fact.  Belle Vue did exist, the show described is similar to those actually staged in the 1870’s/80’s (and, yes, animals did truly escape from the zoo!).  One of those occasions where the truth is stranger than fiction and it’s wonderful to read about some of the facts behind the book.
A perfect mix of animals, action, human stories and history – I hope that Jane Kerr is planning to write more!
The Great Animal Escapade is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.

Jane Kerr

Jane Kerr grew up in North Wales and wrote her first book at the age of seven. ‘The Jones Family have a Picnic’ was not a big-seller, but it sparked a life-long love of writing and story-telling.

After a brief detour working as speech therapist, she trained as a journalist, and has since written for newspapers, online, radio and television. The story telling never stopped.  She is married with two children and a guinea pig.

Reviewed by Angela Paull

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