The best-named heroine in children’s books today…

There is a lot ‘right’ about the front cover of Julia Lee’s debut 9-12s book, The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth: a super creepy lady with clawed hands; a fearful-looking orphan with a stormer of a name; a bow-wearing Pekingese and a band of Red Indians. If that’s not enough to make you open a book, I don’t know what is… Clemency is utterly penniless and entirely alone, until she’s taken in by the marvellous Marvels – a madcap family completely unlike her own. But it’s a surprise to them all when she’s mysteriously bundled from the house by the frightening Miss Clawe. Concerned about Clemency’s fate, the Marvels set out to find her. Enlisting the help of some not-quite-genuine Red Indians, it’s a calamitous race across the country. But Clemency’s misadventures are more dire than her rescuers suspect… will they reach her in time?

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The marvellous Marvels are brilliantly colourful characters: the dim-witted Less-STAH (Leicester), a Pekingese-snatching theatrical called Whitby and the all ‘seeing’ Gully… They provide a fabulous contrast to the villains in the story who are desperate to get Clemency out of the way: the sinister child-catcher Miss Clawe and the two eerie inhabitants of the Great Hall… But top of the pile has to be the wonderful Clemency Wrigglesworth. At first quiet and shy (not unlike Frances Hodgson Burnett’s gorgeous heroine in A Little Princess, Sara Crewe, sent over to England from India), Clemency proves to be more than what she seems. With tremendous energy, she encourages her housemaid friend, Polly, to scoff the mistress’ food from silver bowls, and when Polly’s mouth drops open in amazement, Clemency simply drops a chocolate mint into it.

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Clemency holds her own against her captors (even if they have to prompt her of the alias she so cleverly adopted) and perhaps what makes her so endearing as a heroine is her ‘apparent’ innocence: ‘she tried to arrange her features to look sweet and innocent, but slightly dim.’ Behind her big, blue eyes ideas are brewing and plots are hatching… And her melodramatic ‘plea for help’ letter is hilariously tragic: ‘My mother was taking me home to England but unfortunately she died on the way. You may have heard about it from her friends the Cleavers, unless they died, too.’ And her adherence to social etiquette, even in the direst of situations, is brilliantly done: ‘Do give my regards to the Glover-Smiths.’ Let’s face it – any heroine who hides getaways clothes in a pineapple jar, has got to be worth a look in… The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth is a gorgeous adventure for 8-12s, packed full of lively characters, wonderful wit and a brilliant new heroine – only Clemency would wield ‘Admiral Lord Nelson’s very own telescope’ in such a triumphant manner…