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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
The Disappearing Children (Prime Minister Father and Son, 1)
by Lars Joachim Grimstad
Age Range: 12+
Teddy Popps, (real name Theodor Bjornstjerne), a short, rather portly ex-taxi driver, who hides his baldness behind three strands of hair, is not what you would expect for a Prime Minister. He formed The More Party whose manifesto is simple: The More Party would give people more of what they wanted and less of what they didn’t want.
His son, Finn Popps now lives in the Prime Minister’s residence in Inkognitogate with his eccentric grandmother Baba, whose interior design inspired by Gran Canaria permeates the whole of the interior of their new home, his brother Bendik and new brother Kim Il-Im, (better known as Camomile), given to Teddy Popps as a present by the dictator, the Great Leader Kim Il-Ding of North Boresia while on a visit to Norway.
Finn has to get used to this new life with a new school and new friends. It’s quite a lot to get used to, but he finds that life isn’t so bad with his new brother Camomile and friend Sunniva; that is until some very strange things start happening: first Big Jimmy and Hedda from school disappear leaving identical notes saying they have run away. However, it turns out they are not the only children who have gone missing. Before long, Finn, Camomile and Sunniva are embarking on the biggest adventure of their lives. Why are all the children disappearing and who are the mysterious GAG, the bingo mob from hell?
Norwegian former footballer turned writer, Lars Joachim Grimstad has woven a clever, witty novel of political satire that is full of a wonderful array of colourful characters including the PM Teddy Popps, the sinister Red Cap and Vulture, who lurk around the streets in the early hours of the morning in their Norway Recycles Ltd van, (which is definitely not what it seems), the devious Ernst Krantz, Deputy Leader of the More Party and his arrogant son Viktor, the ‘ancient’ Miss Syversen, who is the PM’s personal chauffeur, Maxwell Jones an English secret agent and the larger than life Chief Constable Malthe.
Grimstad draws on elements of the old traditional tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin giving it a very modern-day twist. Apart from the pacy, page-turning adventure there is the parody and satire which is on a par with his friend Jo Nesbo’s Dr Proctor series. Adults and older readers may well recognise who The Great Leader Kim Il-Ding of North Boresia is based upon.
The tongue-in-cheek pop at politics, excellently translated by Don Bartlett and Siân Mackie, will also appeal especially in the year of an election with political promises rife. The humour is infectious throughout: Prime Minister Teddy Popps promises to fix all the pot holes in the roads, as the last thing he wants is to be one of those people who makes promises and doesn’t follow through. He also buys a crisp factory so that he can make sure the packets contain more crisps and less air and he arranges for the population to have free chocolate bars which have some rather unfortunate health consequences for the Norwegian public. His son Finn innocently wonders if this is what politics is. ‘The people in charge try to make everyone happy while those not in charge try to make everyone unhappy’.
The Disappearing Children is a best-seller in Norway and deserves to become a runaway success here in the UK. Although there is plenty of adventure and humour for children to enjoy, this is a crossover novel that adults, and especially anyone interested in politics, will definitely relish too.