It’s that time of the year again when I have only one excuse for the—as some around me like to call them—age in-appropriate selection of books I’ve bought: It’s my birthday!
I’ve learnt to not pay attention when I’m standing in the children’s section, my excitement visible, and being evidently judged for my reading tastes. My family looks at my book haul and asks me if I’ve forgotten how old I am. Then they complain I’m going to read them all in a day so what’s even the point. Let me ask you this: Who decided you have to stop reading children’s books after a certain age?
It is 1940 and Britain is at war with Nazi Germany. Eleven-year-old Eric lost both his parents in the war and now lives with his Grandma who is hard of hearing. He hates school because he is always picked on for his stick-out ears and broken glasses. But as soon as school is over, he rushes off to spend his day at the place that makes him happiest: London Zoo. And there’s one animal in particular he loves: Gertrude, the gorilla. But with bombs falling all over London, Eric must rescue Gertrude.
Together with his Great-Uncle Sid, a keeper at the zoo, the three go on the run. But while hiding out at the seaside they uncover a top-secret Nazi plot.
Will Eric be able to foil Hitler’s plans and keep Gertrude safe at the same time?
This children’s fiction book is a really a top secret case which has now been declassified. As a long time fan of spy thrillers, I loved the spy angle here. With events occurring during WWII, it introduces the reader to history from that time and what it was like to survive day by day under bomb raids and scant supplies.
Eric’s friendship with Gertrude is heartwarming and his worry for her welfare is what leads him on a dangerous adventure. Somehow, one thing leads to another before Gertrude, Eric, and Uncle Sid are on the run.
Once again, Walliams brings a gamut of characters who entertain you with their antics. It is endearing to see the good guys fight to overcome their challenges and grow in their journey.
From undercover disguises, to trucks that become airborne and flooded submarines, there is a lot of action and thrill. At the same time, it gets hilariously mischievous when swimming with the penguins or having food-fights with some very important people.
Tony Ross’s illustrations are a big reason why I have to read these books and at the risk of repeating myself, I must say they are delightful. I also love how the book is styled like an MI6 case file with official stamps and notes. It brings that something extra to your reading experience.
In case you’re wondering, Hitler’s plans must have been thwarted or the world would have been very different today. But how Gertrude managed that is something you will have to find out yourself.
A crazy adventure that makes its (fictional) mark on world history, this is a fascinating read for children as well as adults of all ages.
Book 20 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
About the Illustrator: Tony Ross was born in London in 1938. He went to art school in Liverpool and has since worked as a typographer for design and advertising agencies. His cartoons have appeared in Punch, Town, Time and Tide and the News of the World. His first book Hugo and the Wicked Winter was published in 1972. Tony has since written over 100 books and illustrated over 2000! Two of his creations, Towser and The Little Princess have been turned into TV series.
Tony lives in Wales.
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