Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Museum's Secret

The Remarkable Adventures of Tom Scatterhorn: The Museum's Secret, by Henry Chancellor, is part one of a newish Young Adult series and my first read for Carl's Once Upon a Time IV challenge. Before my grandaughter pointed it out to me in her city library, saying how good it was, I'd never heard of it. *But* she has good taste in YA literature and I knew the OUaT challenge was coming up, so I happily took it from her.

Tom Scatterhorn's father has disappeared after developing an obsession with insects. He's gone abroad and no one knows where he is until a postcard arrives from Mongolia. Tom's mother promptly sets off to look for him leaving eleven year old Tom with his Uncle Jos and Aunt Melba. They are the proprietors of the Scatterhorn museum, a large, ramshackle, barn of a place housing many curiosities but primarily a collection of very realistic stuffed animals.

The Scatterhorns have had an ongoing, centuries old, feud with the Catchers, a family who inhabit Catcher Hall, across the valley. Apart from one period in Victorian times when taxidermist and scientist, August Catcher, was very friendly with Henry Scatterhorn, a 'daring-do', hunter/explorer type. Together they were the founders of the museum. But now Catcher Hall is empty and the museum is falling into disrepair. Onto the scene appears Don Gervase Askery and his daughter, Lotus, who claim to be long lost relatives of the Catchers. But are these two very odd individuals what they seem? And what is it they're searching for?

Tom, lonely and facing Christmas without his parents, begins an exploration of the museum. He soon discovers that all is not as it seems. One night, shocked to find a talking eagle in his bedroom, he's tricked into spending the night inside the museum. It seems that the eagle is not the only animal that can come alive... various talking specimens include a mammoth, a dodo, a snake, a troupe of bible-bashing mice and a very large tiger.

Tom's conversation with the animals is interrupted by two policemen who think the museum is being burgled. They give chase and the boy takes refuge in a travel-chest full of rags, stored in a cupboard. He burrows deep into the rags and finds himself falling... right smack into Victorian times where two of the first people he meets are Henry Scatterhorn and August Catcher. And, to his dismay and horror, Don Gervase Ackery and his daughter. Can things possibly get any weirder? Well yes as a matter of fact they can... and Tom's adventures are only just beginning.

Well, I have absolutely no trouble seeing why my grandaughter loved this one. I suppose one would have to say that the idea of animals coming to life in a museum is not exactly original - the movie, A Night at the Museum, springs to mind of course. But that's about the only similarity betwixt movie and book, as the story here is very different. This is a pacey, time-travelling yarn, which is more of a 'boy's own' adventure, inhabited by some quite gothicky villains and mad scientist inventor types. It's highly imaginative and nicely historical too with it's Victorian settings and even a trip to the India of the Raj. It also keeps you guessing. The author gives little away about the origins of the villains or in fact what is going on at all; the reader is just as confused as Tom, but it's an awful lot of fun guessing! A cracking good read to be honest, appealing, I would think, to both boys and girls of, say, nine to fifteen, and grannies like me who love a good, well written, YA adventure yarn. Book two of the series, The Hidden World is already out and book three is out this year I believe. Yes, I will be reading them...

Very pleased to have my first Once Upon a Time read under my belt. I now have to finish People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks before next Thursday (the 1st. April). Which sounds easy but sadly it's not inspiring me much and there's a lot of other stuff I would really rather be getting my teeth into. Hopefully, it'll grow on me as I go along.


DesLily said...

wow that was quick!! it did sound like a night at the museum lol.. but glad that it had more of a story to it. happy to hear that you have begun yet another series LOL LOL..

the book I am reading is going slow for me I'm still not back into any reading groove. I thought I might put down the enchanment emporium when in the beginning there were so many names of aunties and such I could not figure out who was who..or even what the heck they were!.. over half way thru the story is good but still too many characters to suit me I think... it's been some time since I found a book that I had trouble putting down..well.. it's that or I just can't get out of this slow reading slump..!

GeraniumCat said...

I really like the sound of bible-bashing mice! And for once they have it in the local library catalogue, what a miracle.

Cath said...

Pat: it wasn't really much like A Night at the Museum but there was that one glaring similarity. Yes, yet another series but a really good one.

Sorry to hear your reading slump continues. I have to admit that I too have trouble remembering loads of characters in books and was surprised to hear that the Enchantment Emporium is like that. Not good.

GeraniumCat: worth picking up from the library if you can - but not buying, imo.