Olivia and the Movie Stars
Having selected Lyn Gardner's first two Olivia books as the best theatre publications of last year, expectations were high for their successor. This can be mixed blessing, since anything below superlative would be a severe disappointment.
There was no need to worry since Olivia and the Movie Stars is just as good as its two older sisters and bodes well for what will apparently eventually be a series of seven books about the young aerialist and putative actress.
All of the series' favourite characters reappear in a story that satisfyingly combines adventure and theatre.
In addition to Olivia, her sister Eel and other family members, a trio of Americans takes centre stage. They are the legendary Wood family, father Jasper who is rather a tyrannical actor type and his TV superstar, 12-year-old twins Cosmo and Cosima.
The trio have flown over to England to appear respectively as Captain Hook, Peter Pan and Wendy in the latest London mega-production. Because the kids have never appeared on stage, they become pupils at the Swan Academy of Theatre and Dance run by Olivia's grandmother, Alicia.
The path to first night does not run as smoothly as everyone would like, particularly since Cosima hates acting and suffers from impenetrable stage fright.
Their story combines with that of the horror from the previous two books, Katie Wilkes-Cox. Her property developer father is keen to get hold of the stage school at a knockdown price in order to further his commercial aims and will stop at nothing to achieve this. This causes all kinds of problems but does eventually reconcile Katie with her former classmates.
Through of this, Olivia steps in and out saving days here, there and everywhere for pretty much everyone named plus her father, Jack the legendary tightrope walker and now tree-hugger.
Olivia and the Movie Stars is a brilliant read and once again, while parents and grandparents are urged to buy it, they should have the good sense to read this book before passing it on to the hardly more deserving children.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher