Sunday, 22 September 2013

Review: The Fabulous Four Fish Fingers by Jason Beresford

KangaRuby bounced, Nightingale soared and The Chimp swung with Slug Boy gripped in his fingers. The scene that greeted them was truly terrible… 

After an encounter with a crisp-loving elf, best friends Gary, Bel, Ruby and Morris are given superpowers. In their new identities, The Chimp, Nightingale, KangaRuby and Slug Boy must stop super-scary (and super-hairy) villains Jumper Jack Flash and The Panteater from stealing all the sweets (and pants) in Tumchester. But first the Fabulous Four Fish Fingers need to learn to work as a team (and remember not to step on Slug Boy).

Four friends following their escapee pet parrot into a derelict house accidentally summon a crisp-loving, purple tracksuit-wearing elf named Cyril. Cyril grants the foursome one wish and after a little dithering they ask to be turned into superheroes and within minutes a brand new team of superheroes is born, each one in possession of the powers of a different animal: Gary becomes The Chimp, Ruby is Kangaruby, Bel becomes Nightingale and Morris (poor Morris) ends up as Slug Boy. 

For their hometown of Tumchester these newly acquired powers could not be more timely as two particularly nasty criminals are on the loose, their goal to steal all the sweets in town. The Panteater (an anteater who is allergic to ants) shows no mercy to anyone who gets in his way, using his super-long tongue to whisk away the pants of his victims, and now he has teamed up with a man-rabbit-pirate thing,Jumper Jack Flash, so-called because he ties people up with their own jumpers. Can the Fabulous Four Fish Fingers learn to use their new powers, and work together as a team without squabbling, in time to stop the crime wave and unmask the evil genius behind them?


This book is bonkers and 7+ kids will love it. Aimed at children who love the likes of Roald Dahl, David Walliams and Andy Stanton, it is a very funny, entertaining story that will have young readers giggling away incessantly. The book's author, Jason Beresford, does not yet have the writing skills to match these three kings of children's literature, but it is still a cracking read, and an impressive debut.

There are two key elements to this book's appeal. The first is the off-the-wall humour that runs throughout the whole story. I'm not just talking about the occasional funny moment, kids will find a laugh-out-loud moment on nearly every page. For me, as an adult reader, I found some this humour to be a little forced in places, as if the author was trying a little too hard to be funny, (something I never felt when reading Dahl, Walliams, etc), but I would doubt that many young readers would agree with me. The Panteater and Jumper Jack Flash are like something you might find in a Monty Python sketch, and I would not be surprised if Jason Beresford grew up on a TV diet of the best of British comedy like Python, Black Adder and Red Dwarf.

However, although the humour is what will keep kids totally engrossed in the story, the real heart and soul of the book are the characters of the Fabulous Four Fish Fingers themselves. These are a group of unremarkable children who have been friends for as long as they can remember. They are not the kind of kids who stand out at school (except for Morris, who seems to be the preferred target of his school's resident bully), and so when they acquire powers that could make them stand out from the rest it takes some time for them to come to terms with this monumental change in their lives, a change that could tear their friendship apart. Morris, in particular, feels excluded from the group because of his seemingly rubbish superhero identity and power (would you want to turn into a slug and be known as Slug Boy, but every one of the Four has to deal with their own insecurities and failings before they can gel toegterh as a team of superheros rather than just as group of friends.

As with most books if this ilk there are many accompanying illustrations, perfectly produced by Vicky Barker. Ms Barker's images not only complement the text well, they also add brilliantly to the humour, by giving readers a visual reference for the characters (and especially the wacky villains) created from Beresford's insane imagination.

The Fabulous Four Fish Fingers was published on 1 August and my thanks go to the lovely people at Catnip for sending me a copy to read. Why not head on over to the Fabulous Four Fish Fingers website at to read the first chapter and find out more about the characters.


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