The humour in this Amazon editor’s pick of 2013 story will definitely appeal, but I would not read the story aloud with younger siblings present.
The story goes that a pet goldfish is being kept as an experiment for a school pollution study by Mark who is lightly portrayed as doing the “evil scientist” thing at first. The innocent joke is carried too far by the author who at times portrays Mark’s younger brother as fearful and obsessed by the “evil” of his older brother. A younger sibling reading this could easily be influenced to view his own brother in a similar way, and the story makes it seem adrenaline busting and fun to do.
“Bbedlam” (Bedlam) is the subject of the second part of the book, spelled incorrectly because it is said to be cool and original to misspell words. Big brother is shown frequently as knocking over or squashing his little brother and taunting a smaller boy by dangling him off the edge of the monkey bars. There are constant references to violence, head thwacking, killing and unsavoury childhood behaviour. All this amidst what would otherwise be a hilarious plot as the goldfish comes back to life as a zombie who can hypnotise people.
The overuse of the word evil hides its true meaning and makes it seem all right in ordinary language. I can think of numerous other terms to describe a brother gone off the tracks. If an older child is mature enough to read this perhaps there is some good in it; the younger brother does try to protect his big brother at one point. Some guidance is definitely necessary and even a talk about the real meaning of the word evil so that children have the maturity to see the book in a light-hearted way.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.