05/04/2006

The Voyage of QV66

This is one of many children's books we have, which I had never read. Penelope Lively is a well-established author and I found this story very readable. It's based in a world devoid of humans, several years after a massive flood which apparently led to the mass evacuation of humanity elsewhere. Animals remain, and this book is about six of them who form an unlikely friendship.

Naturally the animals are able to communicate to each other, and some of them have learned to read. The main characters in this book - a horse, a cow, a dog (who tells the story), a cat, a bird and a monkey - are clearly distinct with quite believable - if stereotyped - personalities.

The story is about a voyage these animals make from the North of England to London, in order to find out what kind of animal the monkey is. They manage to find a boat (QV66) and the monkey, who's clever with his hands and quite a thinker, adapts it to take them on the still-flooded areas that cover much of the country.

There's lots of adventure along the way, and much that's thought-provoking too. Other animals are not necessarily so friendly, and some have even set up new structures and rules, making this book almost reminiscent of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' in places.

Would probably be enjoyed most by children of around 8-12.

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