Ribblestrop Forever!

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Ribblestrop forever!

In the Ribblestrop books Andy Mulligan has created probably the best school stories since the days of Jennings, and certainly the wildest. Later, when they have been evicted from their school by one of the many adults who loathe or are actively trying to kill them, the Ribblestrop pupils, and teachers, set off to build their own tree-top settlement on Ribblesmoor, living life as their ancient ancestors did, working together as a community, and thoroughly enjoying the freedom and sense of peace it gives them.

Ribblestrop Forever is a powerful blast against our health-and-safety-gone -mad culture; a celebration of the importance as well as the sheer joy of running wild. In one episode, a planned football match against another school turns instead into a chariot race homemade chariots pulled by rum fuelled donkeys. Little Barney ends up running the course in sheer, undiluted terror. This is achieved through a junior flash mob — Tiverton Park station and the surrounding area brought to a complete standstill by swarming children.

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Read Julia Eccleshare's interview with Andy Mulligan. Ribblestrop Forever View Rearrange. It's not as if you can assume Ribblestrop children are at all realistic, of course - they're far too intelligent, inquisitive and adaptable - and still able to cause comic mayhem when they have a roustabout.

Those adjectives also apply to this book, as it again shows the author's versatility in tone, content and subject.

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What appears to be a wacky action piece also disguises a plea for curriculum-free, not by-the-book teaching and an acceptance of whatever needs to be faced - such as the eviction the Ribblestrop residents are once again threatened with. At the same time the series doesn't pander to regular young adult book cliche. Subterranean drowning, concern for your school's very roof, a love of self-sustainability up a tree - they don't strike me as wish-fulfilment stereotypes.

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But just as the headmaster isn't really as devil-may-care as he seems, so you can grow to cherish and admire the whole Ribblestrop way of thinking - that of the school and the books. You might not get to care too much about the children individually - as an ensemble piece it still is hard to get beyond the basics of character, but the novels make a very rich series, and the balance of smarts and bonkers throughout has made it very easy to see why it's been lauded and awarded.

I felt the middle episode a little too regular, but this more magical finale does what it should, and leaves us wanting more.

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The series began here. The Game by Krystyna Kuhn starts a longer series of adventure in another weird school for the same young teen audience. You can read more book reviews or buy Ribblestrop Forever!

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