Being a publicist must be really hard work, especially when it comes to children’s books. How can you get the word out when you’ve got sooo many books to plug and only a limited number of places to send them? Sometimes, when publishers really believe in a book, they put out ‘proof copies’ before publication. That’s what Bloomsbury has done with ANYONE BUT IVY POCKET and believe me when I say I have NEVER seen a proof copy like it. It’s hardback. I didn’t know proof copies even CAME in hardback. It’s got gold foiling and it looks like something you’d be really proud to have on your shelf.
Plus, the cheeky beggars at Bloomsbury even dared to offer prizes for reviewing the book. Now, if there’s one thing booky people can’t resist, it’s swag. Bags with book covers on, badges, extracts of books in nicely-presented booklets…frankly, most of us are swayed by a pretty postcard, let alone a proper prize. I’ll admit, my interest was piqued. But it’s a dangerous game, bigging up a book in this way. It made me open the book thinking, ‘Right, this had better be DAMN good…’
It’s really good. I read Anyone But Ivy Pocket far faster than most books I’ve read recently. I actually put down my smartphone to read it. Yes, I know.
The funny thing is, 12-year-old Ivy Pocket herself is deeply annoying. Her patronising habit of calling pretty much everyone ‘dear’ had me biting my knuckles on many occasions. But she is a deliciously top-drawer unreliable narrator, and I love unreliable narrators. It’s such a difficult writing gimmick to pull off well, but Ivy remains clueless about so many things that are totally obvious to the reader – and since the book is written in first person, that’s even more impressive.
What’s the plot? Ivy, deserted by her employer (who has been trying to avoid her for a long time due to Ivy’s conviction that she knows best about everything) is unexpectedly called to visit a dying countess. The countess gives her a simple but dangerous task: to travel from Paris to England and deliver a priceless necklace known as the Clock Diamond to an unpleasant girl called Matilda Butterfield (see my previous review for The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place on my weakness for good character names). Ivy has to put the necklace around Matilda’s neck in front of all her guests at the ball held for her 12th birthday.
You and I know perfectly well that such a quest will be extremely dangerous and that the diamond itself would probably be better off dropped into the deepest ocean where it can wreak horrible curses on passing squid and angler fish. Ivy isn’t stupid (though she IS deluded) but the promise of £500 for carrying out her task is the clincher. And fortunately for her, Ivy is possessed of some rather unusual abilities, though thanks to her unique approach to life, she is blissfully unaware of her true talents. Soon she is fighting off tiny monks, who seem to be able to vanish into thin air, and befriending people who want to kill her (because she’s an idiot) and not seeing what’s in front of her nose, and…
I could go on about this book for hours, but it’d be full of spoilers. And that wouldn’t be fair, because the fun in it mainly comes from discovering things as you go along – before Ivy does, obviously.
It’s by Caleb Krisp, and I’ve deliberately left the author till last (how rude!) because it’s clearly a pen-name and I am now DEVOURED with curiosity to know who he really is. Please, author pals, if it’s one of YOU, TELL ME. And then I can congratulate you in person 😉
There are illustrations in the final version by John Kelly, but I haven’t seen them (they’re not in my proof version) so I can’t comment. I do feel slightly disappointed, however, in the final jacket cover for Ivy. I’m not sure she looks right. Not quite arch enough. And I’m not all that keen on the turquoise. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with the blue and gold hardback.
The ending doesn’t QUITE wrap everything up enough for me. But maybe there’s more Ivy Pocket to come? I do hope so. Because despite the fact that I wouldn’t want her in my house (she would drive me MAD) I think Ivy Pocket is a truly brilliant creation who deserves to be read and enjoyed by a great deal of people. Congrats, Caleb, whoever you are!