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Grimly Darkwood was born in the year nineteen hundred and blinkety blonk, which was a very long time ago. In those days, things were very different from how they are today. Carts were more common than cars, mobile phones had not been invented, and if you were very lucky, the highlight of your day was to find a free plastic spaceman in a packet of corn flakes.
Grimly thought that the sights and sounds of such days were gone forever. He was therefore surprised when, while studying the night sky with his telescope, he began to observe life on a planet which had much in common with those distant days. That he could see this place so clearly was remarkable in itself. Normally, only the brilliant stars which provide such planets with light can be observed at such a distance. But Grimly found out that he could see the planet because it possessed a phenomenon called strangeness, of which he was soon to learn a great deal more…
The Shop on Peculiar Hill is the first of Grimly’s accounts of life in a part of that distant planet, a vicinity known as The Vale of Strange. He is determined that more such tales will follow, in spite of attacks from mysterious ‘intergalactic forces’ which, he says, are trying to sabotage his telescope and clog up his ball point pen.
A riotously imaginative feast of fantastical adventure with lashings of larger-than-life characters and curious goings-on. Following the amusingly absurd loss of Peter’s parents (kidnapped by pirates, then eaten by tigers), “the Overseers of Children decided the lad was too young to live in the hut on Evil Island without them”, and so he’s sent to live with his aunt and uncle in their shop on the Peculiar Hill. From Peter’s arrival here, it’s perfectly clear that Peculiar Hill is as peculiar in nature as it is in name. “You’ll need a hat here when the bogeys start flying around,” says the Station Master. “Otherwise your head’ll get covered in fizz”. But no one is in a hurry to explain what bogeys and fizz are, or what ‘unge’, ‘glop’ and ‘heeble-greebs’ are either for that matter. And then there’s Peter’s introduction to the very essence of “strangeness” and the nearby Vale of Strange, a place that, according to his uncle, a number of tourists have vanished into and never returned. Soon enough, Peter discovers the unnerving secrets of this place, and then finds himself embroiled in an exuberant, quirky quest. This book’s whimsical, jaunty language and characterisation make it marvellous for reading aloud. In fact, as you read the dialogue, it’s easy to hear and see the characters in action, replete with tone of voice and physical quirks. Brilliantly bonkers, this perfectly peculiar page-turner comes heartily recommended for fans of Mr Gum and Philip Ardagh.