Thursday 13 August 2015

Review: The Imagination Box by Martyn Ford

There is a box. Anything you imagine will appear inside. You have one go, one chance to create anything you want. What would you pick?"

That's exactly the question ten-year-old Timothy Hart gets to answer after discovering The Imagination Box. The greatest toy on earth.

The top-secret contraption transforms his life but when the box's inventor, Professor Eisenstone, goes missing, Tim knows he has to investigate.

With the help of a talking finger monkey called Phil, he sets out to find the professor. In order to rescue his friend, he must face his darkest fears and discover the true potential of his own mind.

The Imagination Box by Martyn Ford is a modern, exciting and very funny take on the classic genie-in-the-lamp tale. Orphan Tim lives in the hotel owned by his adopted parents, and it is a pretty lonely life he leads. He seems to have no friends and his adopted mother and father are focused on running the hotel, and so he escapes from boredom by drawing. Tim loves to draw and has an incredibly vivid imagination; in fact, most of his drawings have very little to do with the real world. Except for finger monkeys that is. Tim loves drawing finger monkeys and they are his all-time favourite animal.

Into the hotel and Tim's life comes Professor Eisenstone, the inventor of the Thought Directed Atomic Construction Device, which Tim feels is too much of a mouthful and decides to christen it the Imagination Box. The Prof recognises that Tim's powerful imagination is the very thing that is needed to make his invention work, and it isn't long before Tim is conjuring up all kinds of things from the box, using only the power of his mind, including the one thing that he has always wanted: a real, live finger monkey! And not just any finger monkey - this one can talk.

Obviously, the Imagination Box is a potentially world changing invention, and equally as obviously that means that there is going to be some kind of dastardly and nefarious villain who wants to get their hands on it. When the Prof disappears it is down to Tim, Phillip and Dee, the professor's granddaughter, to find the professor, defeat the villains and save the world. 

The Imagination Box is a thoroughly entertaining, funny mystery adventure story that will delight 9+ readers, and most likely their parents too. There is something for everyone in this story - action, adventure, fantasy, science (albeit it a little fantastical in nature) and humour. And, of course, a finger monkey called Phillip.

Ok, so yesterday in my review of Fire Girl by Matt Ralphs I stated that I'm not a fan of talking animals, and yet here is another book where a talking animal is a stand-out character, and probably the star of the show. Honest, I really am not a fan of talking animals, but Phillip the finger monkey, with his highly educated and slightly upper class voice, is such a great creation. 

If I had one small negative thing to say about this book, it is the lack of illustrations within. Over the last twelve months there have been some fabulously written books published in the UK for the middle grade audience that have been enhanced even further by the work of an illustrator (just a few notable examples are Jamie Littler's work for Hamish and the Worldstoppers, Ross Collins' illustrations in The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones, and the fab drawings of Sara Ogilvie in Demolition Dad), and it is a shame that Matt Hunt's awesome work on the cover for The Imagination Box is not seen on the pages within, especially given the main character's passion for drawing. (I guess I should add that I only have a copy of the proof, so if illustrations were included in the finished edition then all I can say is brilliant!!!).

The Imagination Box is one of those books that will have children who have read it keen to discuss it with their friends. After all, the story's central theme - that of using your imagination for wish fulfillment - is one that will engage most active young minds. As such, it would make a great class reader for a group of Year 5/Year 6 children, although it's 270+ page length may worry some teachers and thus reduce the likelihood of this happening. However, the pace and fabulous fun factor of the story do ensure that children will race through these pages, most likely giggling all the way to the final chapter.

My thanks go to the fab people at Faber for sending me a copy of The Imagination Box to read.


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