Far-Flung Adventures No. 3: Hugo Pepper. By Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell. David Fickling Books. $14.99.
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart. By Ian Beck. Greenwillow/HarperCollins. $16.99.
Tales of the bold, brave and venturesome just don’t get any better than these two. Neither of these books is “high fantasy,” with world-spanning themes and antique-sounding language. Both are far more down-to-Earth than that, although both heroes actually spend a good deal of time above the Earth (Hugo in a flying craft, Tom in the land beyond the clouds that is reached by climbing that famous fairy-tale beanstalk). The heroes here are above all likable, their adventures thrilling for readers ages 8-12 or so, the authors’ style gripping enough to keep those pages turning from start to finish.
Hugo Pepper has something more: the superb, amazingly detailed illustrations of Chris Riddell. Riddell and Paul Stewart are co-creators of The Edge Chronicles, which is for somewhat older readers and built on a grander scale than the Far-Flung Adventures series. But Riddell’s illustrations have never been better than they are in Hugo Pepper, whose adventures follow those chronicled in Fergus Crane and
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart relies more on words than on pictures – although Ian Beck’s silhouette illustrations are not bad at all. It makes sense that this is a word-oriented book, because the bad guy here is none other than a renegade storyteller. The world is one in which there exists a Land of Stories, to which the six older Trueheart brothers – all named Jack or some variation thereof – venture upon the order of story creators, to be transformed or rescue damsels in distress or otherwise live out fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Rapunzel” and “The Frog Prince.” Everyone in the