Mr Hopper is a shy, elderly man secretly in love with his next-door neighbour, Mrs Silver. She lives on the flat immediately below his, but knows nothing of his secret crush on her.

Upon finding that she wants more than anything for her tiny tortoise “Alfie” to put on weight and grow a bit, Mr Hopper goes to the pet shop and buys hundreds of tortoises of all different sizes. His intention is to find one that is just a little bit bigger and heavier than Esio Trot, then using an ingeniously designed claw arm, cleverly take the original tortoise, replacing it with the newer “improved” version! His cunning plan relies on stealth and risk because he must do this many, many times over without being discovered until the tortoise is fully grown. (The original Alfie does get re-housed on a lovely new farm.)

Mr Hopper’s ingenious claw device to do this is written in a catchy and amusing style with illustrations for the interested young inventor. There is also puzzle solving with a bit of a tortoise language to de-code. (Esio Trot backwards for example, is Tortoise!) To find out what happens, if he is discovered, and if romance blossoms read on!

All romance is innocent and in true gentlemanly Dahl style for young readers. This book is an entertaining short read, simple and easy enough for seven year olds to read themselves, or to be read to children at one or two sittings.

A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is now a full-time wife and mother of two.