I’ve been meaning to write about Hugo Pepper for a while. It fits into the same world as Corby Flood, and if possible, I enjoyed it even more.
In Short: Some years ago in the remote Frozen North, baby Hugo was found in the wreckage of a strange contraption; half sled, half balloon. Ten years later Hugo Pepper decides to return to the home he never knew – the town of Harbour Heights. He befriends the inhabitants of Firefly Square who remember his parents with love. They accept Hugo into their hearts as though he was family. But all is not well in Harbour Heights. Hugo’s new friends are at the mercy of an unscrupulous villain. Hugo hoped to learn more about his parents, but instead he uncovers a tangled web of tragic love, thwarted ambition, blackmail and lost treasure that ties all their stories together.
What I thought: This is a very special little book. It is a warm, absurd and funny story with just enough sadness to keep you hooked. It is a story about stories. The villain of the piece, Elliot de Mille, has taken the once wonderful publication The Firefly Quarterly – that used to be a collection of marvellous and rare folk tales – and turned it into a spiteful tabloid filled with lies and innuendo.
To defeat these lies Hugo must find the truth in the tangle of stories surrounding his new friends. Each of these eccentric characters has a history that touches on the fate of Hugo’s parents, and somehow, the fate of Firefly Square where all of them live.
This book is stuffed so full of ideas that its amazing you can close it at all. Its also really good to look at. The illustrations do just as much to drive the narrative as the text does:
The characters are great. I don’t have time to introduce all of them, but here are a few. First, of course, young Hugo Pepper:
Then we also meet Daisy and Lilly Neptune, the elderly mermaid sisters who run (of course) and antique shop stored with all the objects they find at the bottom of the sea. As you can see in the text below, they are not daunted by dry land, unlike some royal mermaids of our acquaintance:
Edward Eversham is the inventor who “has long since moved on from plain inventing and was now dabbling in mechanical wizardry.”
Freda Chamomile who can read the future in a cup of tea. She is married to Diego Chamomile, and together they run a tea shop which stock varieties of tea that have remarkably specific uses:
The manipulative editor of the Firefly Quaterly – Elliot de Mille:
Another unpleasant character, the sly and thieving Cressida:
These are just some of the many fabulous characters, and only a small sample of the illustrations that fill this book.
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have created real treasure of a book. There are some books and movies that glow with the joy and fun that went into their creation. This is one of those.