Zoe Norton Lodge (text) and Georgia Norton Lodge (illustrator), Elizabella and the Great Tuckshop Takeover (Elizabella #2), Walker Books Australia, May 2019, 224 pp,. $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760650551
Elizabella and her friends are worried when Nutriicorp takes over their primary school tuckshop to make money. Sure, they have a new playground and the principal, Mr Gobblefrump, has a shiny new megaphone, but all the kids are acting strangely and Mrs Duck, who has run the tuckshop forever, is miserable and out of a job. Throw in a lice outbreak that causes havoc in the school, and a competition to write a new school song, and it’s turning out to be a very chaotic term at Bilby Creek Primary. How is Elizabella going to fix things?
With creativity, panache, and some very out-of-the-box thinking, and ably assisted by her friends Minnie and Huck, Elizabella handles the crises, helps everyone, and defeats the global domination plans of Nutriicorp.
Fans of the Little Lunch books and TV series should find plenty of appeal in Elizabella’s adventures. There is a great off-the-wall sense of humour and plenty of oddball characters. The dynamic between Elizabella and her best friend Minnie is terrific; here are two strong, creative kids who are both used to leading, and I enjoyed the way they negotiated who got to take the lead in any given project. Together they are more than a match for anything.
As a parent, I squirmed a little over the lice outbreak, but I know that the grosser it is, the more my grade four son loves it, and he’s not the only one. I did like the way the authors brought a lovely father-daughter moment into the saga of the lice, when Elizabella was upset that the treatment meant that she would have to comb out the knot that she’d had in her hair since her mother had died. That knot had a lot of memories connected to it, and the way her father handled it was beautiful.
I also appreciated that the authors didn’t turn the principal or the teachers into the villains of the piece. The principal is a quirky character in his own right, and trying to do his best with his rulebook and megaphone, and the thread of the school song gives Mr Gobblefrump and the other teachers a chance to shine in the story.
The structure of the story felt a little disjointed at times. The story wanders off into various tangents, most of which come together in the final chapters, but even at its most unconnected, The Great Tuckshop Takeover is always an enjoyable read.
This is a fun, oddball story for readers aged 8 to 11. Elizabella’s solution to the problem of the Tuckshop Takeover is definitely out there. She may be right about the way of the future in nutrition, but I’m still not sure I’m ready for Liced Vovos. And how do the authors know if Banana Worm Bread really is delicious? Did they do a taste test? Enquiring minds want to know.
Reviewed by Emily Clarke