As I mentioned, oh, some time back, we've been reading The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken, aloud for the past few months. We finished it up right after Christmas but I haven't had the opportunity to talk about it until now.
I first read The Strictest School in the World back in 2009 at the suggestion of Sherry at Semicolon. I reviewed this first title (and the second and third in the series) over at 5 Minutes for Books if you'd like to reacquaint yourself with the first time I began pushing these books on the unsuspecting public. I have been waiting for my children to age well enough to read these stories with them. This past fall, I felt the time had come.
Stealing from my original review, here is a brief synopsis of the story:
"In the first tale we meet Emmaline Cayley, a fourteen year old self proclaimed aviatrix. She is on a quest to build a flying machine but her mother feels it would be more important to be sent to a finishing school for young ladies were she can learn the art of, well, being more feminine. As it turns out, she is sent to what truly is The Strictest School in the World, St. Grimelda’s School for Young Ladies, where the matron is unbearable and big ugly “birds” guard the fortress-like compound. Thank goodness for Emmaline though, she has a crazy and eccentric Aunt Lucy who, along with her body guard and a young boy named “Rubberbones”, she is rescued from the compound and released for more adventures!"
(Pardon me a moment to be amused that I'm quoting myself.)
Howard Whitehouse has created a cast of quirky characters that are a joy and a laugh to be with. I liken his style to Wodehouse, only his writings are appropriate for even younger ages.
My oldest is six and, as I say, I couldn't seem to wait another minute to read him the first story in this series. Two thoughts:
1. I think I might have jumped the gun just a shy too soon. He caught a lot of the humor towards the end of the book (with the introduction of the crazy Princess Purnah from Chiligrit) and laughed quite a bit at her. However, the entire first half seemed to be a stretch for him. I think it would be better suited or him in about two years. (Oh patience. I loathe thee.)
2. I still enjoyed this story just as much as the first time! I snickered and guffawed at Whitehouse's cleverness. I was amused by the eccentrities and dry humor which pervades this piece of work. I still find it an incredible delight.
Those two things stated, I don't necessarily regret reading him the book either. As I say, he did really get into it by the last ten chapters and laughed a good deal at Princess Purnah. (She is hilariousish one.) It is good to be stretched in our reading and to try new things. I do anticipate re-visiting this series again, as I have several more children to share it with after him.
It was a good read and good fun for me, but it was also time to come to the end of it and let him choose an easier book for us to read together.
** Update to post: I did ask him several times whether or not he would prefer to move on to a different book but he repeatedly declined my offer. The subject of the pterodactyls kept him wanting to read the story. Also, as we read along I would ask him to summarize chapters for me. I don't know that he always knew exactly what had happened. But he named the characters that were the main focus of each chapter and had a hint as to the plot and that is why we kept on going until the end. The reward was definitely Purnah!
Additional reviews on this book:
* Shonya at Learning How Much I Don't Know
* The Literate Mother
* Sherry at Semicolon
Least there be any confusion as to my opinion of these books: I still highly recommend them!!!