David O’Connell (text), Claire Powell (illus.), The Chocolate Factory Ghost (The Dundoodle Mysteries), Bloomsbury Australia, May 2018, 208pp, $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781408887066
Infused with a delicious blend of popular children’s tales, The Chocolate Factory Ghost serves a sprinkle of Willy Wonka, a dash of Harry Potter, a drizzle of Lord of the Rings and some classic fairy tales combed in between. It’s the quest of the century with all things sweet and sugary to keep middle grade readers on their toes.
Archie McBudge is immediately thrown into a battle of wills, suddenly cast heir to the entire McBudge Confectionery Company in a remote Scottish village of Dundoodle. He may now be money (and sugar) rich, but having this power and responsibility comes with a price. If keeping nasty Aunt, Mrs Puddingham-Pye and her bratty twins under his watchful eye isn’t tricky enough, Archie has to combat a creepy, bat-like mobgoblin and multiple attempts at sabotage on his mission to solve the Dundoodle mysteries. With friends Fliss and Billy, and little dog Sherbet, by his side, Archie boldly uncovers clues and puzzles as to his great-uncle’s secret in order to save the company, and his family’s honour, from a tragic demise.
The Chocolate Factory Ghost, whisking dragons, magic and mayhem into its mix, is a fun and light-hearted read with shrewd black and white, animated sketches peppered throughout. Each puzzle, as objects are cumulatively collected for an end reveal, is quickly resolved by the characters and the objects are not directly linked. More of a recognisable relationship between objects would have allowed the reader a chance to draw their own conclusions. However, the fun is in the suspense and adventure and the wittiness behind the greed and politics.
A mystery with a twist of marshmallow sticks, that will change your predictions at every turn, and keep your mouth watering until the end. For children eight and up.
Look out for the next The Dundoodle Mysteries coming out in 2019.
Reviewed by Romi Sharp