Now, I’m not usually a fan of ‘celebrity children’s books’; sometimes very little writing has been done by the ‘celebrity’ themselves, but also some of the stories can be so poor they would be unlikely to be accepted for publication without the famous name attached to it.
This is definitely not the case with Miranda Hart’s children’s novel. It is good, funny, age-appropriate, shows great imaginative flair, has moments of real peril and emotion.
I should also point out that I am a fan of Miranda Hart’s comedy; I like her silly, observational humour. I know that she’s quite a ‘Marmite comedian’ but I like both Marmite and Miranda!
I received a review copy from the lovely people at Hatchette Kids but at a similar time my daughter received one as a birthday present. Who was going to read it first? (She did, within a week) Perhaps I was a little sceptical (see above) and slow to start reading, but my daughter had been given her copy with an enthusiastic recommendation from her friend: ‘ This is my FAVOURITE book!’ And she doesn’t mind lugging a hardback around in her bag all day.
In essence, the title tells the story: on her eleventh birthday, Chloe loses her smile. Why? And will she find it again? Well, yes – it’s got to have a happy ending, hasn’t it? – but the journey to finding the smile is itself full of smiles (from the reader at least), sand animals and shadow bandits.
There are also reflections on the joy of categorising one’s joke collection, the best (only?) game of snakes and ladders in literature and the quest for the comfort of a new duvet. Chloe’s parents and her Gran have their own dramas to play out; as an adult reader, the implications of this are clear to see.
What raises this story above other imaginative adventures is the underlying metaphor; I understood Chloe’s lost smile as symptomatic of the state of depression. The feeling that you might never smile again, that nothing can lift your spirits, that it’s your own fault and that it’s making everyone you love just as sad as you are. And that’s a brave subject to tackle in a children’s book. I thought it was done very well, with a balance of taking the emotions seriously, but treating it in a very imaginative, fun way by taking Chloe to her own Magic Land to discover her ‘courage, hope and love’ and – spoiler alert! – find her smile.
The illustrations by Kate Hindley are great; encapsulating the silliness in this search.
My daughter and I had ‘Such Fun’ reading Chloe’s story. We wonder what’s next for the glorious Miss Hart…?