Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Mona Lisa Mystery, by Pat Hutchins

Staff review by Chris Saliba

When Class 3 of Hamstead Primary head to Paris, they get caught up in a plot to steal the Mona Lisa.

There is excitement all round. Class 3 of Hamstead Primary School are off on an excursion to Paris. Mr Coatsworth, the bus driver, has fixed a sign to the school bus that reads, “Paris, Here We Come!”. The children – Morgan, Avril, Sacha, Matthew, Jessica and Akbar – can’t wait for their trip to begin. There’s only one slightly sour note: the school principal, Miss Barker, who was supposed to be going on the trip, has been replaced by Miss Parker. The children are not keen on Miss Parker, with her dyed hair and funny hat.

Soon after the bus sets off, Morgan notices they are being followed by a bearded man in a black Citroen car.  When the class gets onto the ferry that takes them to Paris, they notice a second bearded man. Things get stranger and stranger when Class 3 get to the hotel and before they know it, the children are caught up in a plot to steal the Mona Lisa.

Fans of David Walliams are sure to enjoy this hilarious holiday adventure. Pat Hutchins fills her mystery with plenty of fun characters, all with their individual tics and peculiarities. There is Avril, the plucky cockney girl who always carries around with her a bottle of her favourite condiment, tomato sauce; Mr Coatsworth, with his dreadful fear of heights (the dizzying scenes at the Eiffel Tower are brilliantly done); the madcap hotel manager; the seemingly eccentric yet quite wicked Miss Parker; and lastly, the wonderfully nutty Miss Barker, school principal.

Pat Hutchins excells at setting up a joke and paying if off with a good delivery. The scenes where Jessica thinks she’s been poisoned, only to realise she’s misread the menu (poisson is French for fish) are especially funny. The book also has the feelgood quality of a bustling school trip, full of naive enthusiasm with the children whooping with cheerfulness at every opportunity.

Fun holiday reading for adults and children alike.

The Mona Lisa Mystery, by Pat Hutchins. Published by Puffin. ISBN: 9780141386218  RRP: $16.99

To sign up for our monthly newsletter, featuring new releases, book reviews and favourite articles from around the web, click here.