Hollie Chips: Book review
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Reviewed by tvnz.co.nz's Kate Saunders
Ok, it's confession time - Anna Gowan works at TVNZ, and I sit four desks away from her.
When Scholastic sent me a review copy of her children's novel, Hollie Chips, I began to feel a bit sick.
What if I didn't like it? How would I look her in the eye again? I'd just have to shuffle around the office looking at the ground a lot. (And be on high alert in case she decided to lob a stapler at my head.)
Luckily for me and my less-than-sterling reflexes, high alert shouldn't be necessary.
Hollie Chips stars a little girl called, well, Hollie Chips.
Hollie is an unusual child. She has one blue eye and one brown eye, and she can't tell a lie, even a small one.
When Hollie and her mum move to Puriti Road, Hollie is baffled by the way her neighbours all keep to themselves.
When she discovers that slimy businessman Barry Buckscud is trying to destroy their neighbourhood and build a dog food factory, she comes up with a plan to stop him.
All she needs to do is make friends with her neighbours and build a sense of community. And how hard could that be?
Marketed for children 8-11 years old, Hollie Chips is an amusing 'David and Goliath' type tale that will also be enjoyed by those both younger and older.
Apart from the protagonist, the main characters in Hollie Chips are mostly grown-ups. There's crabby old Ethel Bainbridge, unlucky Phillipa Topsy, the oblivious John Johns, and of course, the evil developer Barry Buckscud.
While it is unusual for a children's book to focus on a community of adults, it works.
The deliciously named neighbours are essentially all big kids; vividly described, their motivations and feelings are explained in a humorous style which makes even the oldest crabbiest neighbour likeable to the reader:
"... if there was one thing Ethel hated more than the colour yellow, it was children: their small hands, gappy-toothed smiles and high-pitched voices. And the dirt! Everyone thought rats were dirty but Ethel was sure experiments would prove that children were much dirtier. And they all had nits. It made Ethel's head itchy just thinking about it..."
In fact the only adult who is portrayed as being even slightly mature is Hollie's mum, Mrs Chips. And just like a year one primary school teacher, Mrs Chips never reveals her first name.
Hollie herself is a delight; an inquisitive, caring child who thinks outside the box and worms her way into her neighbours' lives despite their best efforts to keep her away.
With Hollie's powers of observation and her dogged determination we can only assume that she will continue to fight injustice and meddle in other people's business - Hollie Chips is the type of character who may have many storylines ahead.
Check out the Hollie Chips website - www.holliechips.co.nz
Hollie Chips by Anna Gowan