Sharing the joy of children’s books

The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things

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Winner of the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book at this year’s CBI Book of the Year Awards, there are plenty of strange, unusual and even impossible things to explore in Paul Gamble’s debut!

Ministry of SUITsI’ve got some serious questions for Paul Gamble; why do seagulls hang around St Stephen’s Green, which is nowhere near the sea? Are ghosts real, and if so are they more afraid of us than we are of them? Why do very healthy things (cabbage, onions, broccoli) have a horrible smell when cooking, but unhealthy things (cakes, pizzas, fish fingers) smell amazing? These are not unlike some of the questions asked and answered in his debut novel The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things.

From the very beginning, this book had me in stitches. Gamble’s wit and humour is packed into every chapter, with plenty of action and fun. Dotted with extracts from the Ministry of SUITS handbook, we learn more about the world that runs parallel with our own – not unlike the Harry Potter universe. The similarities don’t end there; Gamble has created a protagonist that a reader can get on board with. Jack is brave and loyal, with a curious mind that leads him to adventure. It’s great qualities like these that can sometimes create a protagonist that is a bit boring or predictable, but not Jack. I’ll grant that this is a fantasy world so we as readers are allowing ourselves to believe the unbelievable, but that said, Jack is hero that is also flawed and who can get it wrong sometimes. Jack is the ‘Every Man’ (or ‘Every Boy’, if you want to get technical about it). What better way to draw readers into a fantasy world than being led by someone you can believe exists.

On one very ordinary Monday morning, Jack and his friend David encounter a bear, a strange man called Grey and a whole host of other characters they never imagined in their wildest dreams. Some strange goings-on at their school, and fear that his friend David might be in trouble, leads Jack to joining the Ministry of SUITS and learning more weird and wonderful facts about the world around us – like piratoriums, bears and wooden chairs, and the complexity of time and space (hint: it’s a lot smellier than you think).

As well as downright hilarious, Gamble is not afraid to be gruesome (Trudy Moody’s methods of dealing with those who cross her!) or poke fun at himself. His footnotes and little quips at himself as the author and the genre he is writing for adds to the fun, without removing the reader from the world of the story.

This is sure to catch the imagination of any bookworm, as well as those who may be a little less than eager to pick up a book outside of school time.

I would also recommend this as a great tool for creative writing with children, because not only is it an example of excellent storytelling, but gives plenty of encouragement to use your imagination.

  • Author: Paul Gamble
  • ISBN: 9781910411544
  • Publisher: Little Island
  • Age range: 9+ years
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About the author

Niamh Callaghan

Niamh Callaghan is a graduate of the MA in Literature and Publishing course at NUI, Galway. She loves reading fiction of all shapes and sizes, and occasionally makes an attempt at writing her own. She has written and performed theatre for children, and attended creative writing workshops at the Big Smoke Writing Factory. She loves working in publishing and is in awe of people who actually put pen to paper.

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