Middle Grade Reviews

Review – The Chocolate Factory Ghost by David O’Connell



‘… if we don’t find the secret ingredient soon any new batches of fudge we make just won’t be the same. It’ll just be ordinary fudge.’

‘Does that matter?’ said Mum. The factory makes lots of other things.

‘But fudge is our biggest seller by far,’ said Mr Hankiecrust. ‘If we don’t find the secret ingredient soon, it could be a disaster!’

(The Chocolate Factory Ghost by David O’Connell.)birdSynopsis:

Archie McBudge is in a whole load of trouble. He’s just inherited a chocolate factory from the Great Uncle he never knew he had. McBudge’s fudge is the factory’s bestseller, but the secret ingredient is missing. Not finding it will spell disaster.

Archie must solve a series of puzzles to prove himself worthy of his interheritence. If he fails, Mrs Puddingham-Pye will inherit. Archie has six clues to find – that’s six chances for Mrs Puddingham-Pye and her family to bump him off.

Helped by new friends Fliss and Billy, Archie figures out the puzzles and learns the strange stories about Dundoodle and the factory itself. Can he solve the puzzles and save his future?birdReview:

Addictive as a chocolate orange. I read it pretty much in one go, sucked in by the puzzle which turns into a deeper mystery – the mystery of what makes McBudge fudge taste so good. David O’Connell is a brilliant storyteller. The writing comes across as simple, but this is deceptive. Jokes are told at the perfect moment, information is revealed at a great pace and the result is you won’t be able to put this down.

It is nice to see a children’s book influenced by Scottish culture. Many of the place and character names sound Scottish – McBudge, Dundoodle, Tosh, Clootie Dumpling. The magic and legends of Dundoodle also have a distinctly Scottish feel.

The trio of main characters work well together. Yes, Archie finds out he is stinking rich, but Fliss has to overcome her feelings about this in order to make friends. I adore Billy, the kid obsessed with all things macabre, who considers himself such an expert in unusual happenings that he has his own business cards. He’s a strange kid, but that is exactly why you’ll *love* Billy. There is enough sense of who Fliss and Billy are without it being overwhelming for the very young target audience.

The world has a lovely texture. Fictional sweets have some prestigious forerunners, but the Tweetie Sweeties are up there with chocolate frogs, and I love how the confectionary plays a part in the puzzles. There are also some memorable locations, from Honeystone hall to the nooks and crannies inside the chocolate factory. This makes the story more vivid for readers, and more unique.  

In terms of child readers, this would be an ideal book for that tricky stage where children want something more challenging than easy readers, but are not up to the level of Harry Potter. When I worked as a bookseller, this was a question which came up regularly, usually with children of 7 or 8. This was just before the wonderful Sibeal Pounder came onto the scene, and there have been several other books since which are ideal for that age-group, but this sits nicely alongside them. That said, it is only child-like in the best sense of embracing humour and wordplay. Anybody who embraces this will enjoy the book, and I would recommend it as a quick read for much older children.

Definitely worth getting your hands on, and a lovely one to share with children.


Thanks to Liz Skelly and Bloomsbury Books for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.






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