As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

January 11, 2011

THE DEATH-DEFYING PEPPER ROUX by Geraldine McCaughrean, 2010

The Death-Defying Pepper Roux
Pepper's fourteenth birthday is a momentous one. It's the day he's supposed to die. Everyone seems resigned to it—even Pepper, although he would much prefer to live. But can you sidestep Fate? Jump sideways into a different life? NaÏve and trusting, Pepper sets a course through dangerous waters, inviting disaster and mayhem at every turn, one eye on the sky for fear of angels, one on the magnificent possibilities of being alive. New York Times bestselling and Printz Award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean has created a gripping tale filled with dark humor and daring escapades, where the key to a boy's life lies in facing his own death. Join him on the run—if you can keep up. (Amazon product description)

Review by Kim Thacker, writer and mommy

I’ve been a fan of Geraldine McCaughrean (pronounced Muh-cork-run) for a long time!  Her historical novel, THE KITE RIDER, published by HarperCollins in 2001, is one of my favorite books.  More recently (2008), McCaughrean won the Prinz award for her first contemporary novel, THE WHITE DARKNESS.  I expected THE DEATH-DEFYING PEPPER ROUX to be nothing less than wonderful, and I was not disappointed!

The plot of this book is pretty implausible, which is what make the fact that McCaughrean carries it off in her characteristic stunning fashion, absolutely amazing.  The story is whimsical and old-fashioned feeling.  I’m still not sure when it is supposed to take place.  I think cars were mentioned at some point?  But so were ships trading porcelain.  It really has a timeless quality that I love.  I can see it becoming a classic in children’s literature.  

The characters are highly odd, but also thoroughly believable, despicable, and lovable.  Pepper is the best friend every child should have and the child every parent hopes to raise--a good boy, through and through.  Albeit confused and gullible.  

The themes, to me, were love, friendship, courage, and personal growth.  It’s easy to make a story with themes like that very moralistic and preachy feeling, but this story is just not that way.  

The pacing is fantastic.  Without spoiling the plot, I’ll just say that Pepper takes on various roles throughout the story, each of which is unique and funny to the extreme.  I couldn’t wait to see what Pepper did next!

Of all the wonderful things about PEPPER ROUX, my favorite thing, and one that cannot go without some mention, is the writing style.  It’s lyrical and hilarious at the same time.  Though the story is told in the third person, the narrator also feels a lot like Pepper, which I think is pretty amazing, and something for writers like me to tuck away into the “File of Good Advice.”

Do I recommend PEPPER ROUX?  Yes!  Especially to readers who enjoy classic fairy tales with a modern twist, such as readers who enjoyed Kate DiCamillo’s THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX.  Since it’s also a great adventure story, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Peter Pan stories by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  I also want to mention here that Geraldine McCaughrean has written the only authorized sequel to J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN, called PETER PAN IN SCARLET. 

Market:  Middle Grade
Language:  Mild
Sensuality:  Mild
Violence:  Moderate (a murder on board a ship; constant adventure peril)
Mature Themes:  Abandonment, lying--particularly to children, and children lying to adults; murder; misrepresentation of ones self to others

Book formats:
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux (hardcover)
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux (Kindle)

To learn more about the author visit: Geraldine McCaughrean


Amy Finnegan {} said...

This book looks so great! It seems to have everything I love in a story, and more :)

Excellent review! Thanks!

Kim said...

You'll love it, Amy. I think Geraldine McCaughrean is a fantastic writer!