'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 27 August 2018

Guest Review: The Institute of Fantastical Inventions

The debut novel The Institute of Fantastical Inventions by children’s author Dave Leys was a pure delight to read (I knocked it over in an afternoon), and the illustrations by Shane Ogilvie are nicely matched to the characters and plot development. 

The book’s premise is successful in setting the scene for madcap adventure and mishap. The central character is Leo McGuffin – a name that promises a tale of cloak-and-dagger secrecy and diversion – who is the Chief Technical Officer at the Institute of Fantastical Inventions (or IFI for short). 

The IFI is an organisation that makes people’s wishes come true through the wonders of science, delivering fantasies of all kinds – from extra limbs, bionic sight and the ability to float and be popped like a balloon to romantic requests by ‘people who wanted someone to fall madly in love with them or, just as often, people who desperately wanted someone to stop being in love with them’.

McGuffin’s nemesis is the brilliant but irascible Dr Andrea Allsop whose life he persistently, and usually accidentally, makes a misery. Along with his child-genius sidekick Edward, McGuffin and Allsop become entangled in a plot of intrigue involving a glow-in-the-dark leg, an aura of mystery, an invisibility device, and a very boring man named Mr Mumble. 

Leys’s writing could be described as a harmonious fusion of the inventiveness of Roald Dahl, the absurdism of Douglas Adams and the linguistic playfulness of Jasper Fforde. 

I imagine that it is a particularly challenging task to pitch a book to primary-school readers. What I like about this book is that it’s clever and funny and doesn’t talk down to its audience, and it also has an intelligent take-home message about the value of science over commercial profit. 

In many ways, this book is a satirical defence of science as rational yet marvellous, and as something to be respected for what it can reveal about the wondrous world we live in.

Title: The Institute of Fantastical Inventions
Author: David Leys
Illustrator: Shane Ogilvie
Publisher: Harbour Publishing, $14.99
Publication Date: September 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781922134936
For ages: 10 - 14 
Type: Middle Fiction

Dr Camille Nurka kindly supplied this guest review for KBR.Camille is  copy editor and lover of rollicking children's stories.