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‘Energetic, often funny and positive story about children finding ways to solve problems’ – Review by Letter Press Project about Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box

Thank you for the detailed and delightful review from The Letterpress Project about Junior Fiction book Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box by Alice Hemming and Mike Garton.

‘Being a pupil at Purple Hill Primary School is always exciting because of the unconventional teaching staff. Arlo isn’t that keen on speaking out loud in class but is a very good storyteller as he recounts the second adventure in this series. As if going on a Year 4 trip to a zoo with real dinosaurs wasn’t thrilling enough, this time Class 5P has another new teacher , the exotic and creative Miss Pythia, who fascinates the children with her unusual approach to teaching which includes often speaking in rhyme. She also seems to be able to prophesise the future and even has the ability to transport her class back in time!

She certainly knows how to inspire the children when she shows them a tantalising golden box with an embossed sun like symbol on the lid. She is usually pretty easy going but on this occasion strictly instructs them that:

‘Opening the box would have dire consequences. Dire consequences. Do you understand? Dire consequences’.

After their trip back in time to watch a play in the theatre in Ancient Greece, she tells them the story about Pandora’s Box. I like the way that this author always manages to weave in plenty of history and other useful information to beguile the readers. Despite the obvious parallels with the box in their own classroom, it is clear that someone may be unable to resist taking a peep inside at some point in the story.

All the children are very enthusiastic when she suggests that they should enter an inter–school theatre showcase where they have to write, direct and perform a play in one day. As the theme is ‘Myths and Fairy Tales’, they all decide to perform their own version of ‘Pandora’s Box’. Arlo is thrilled to be chosen to be the director, a role that he feels inspired to do well because he greatly admires the renowned film director, Jaques P. Lancaster. When he realises that his hero is going to be the star attraction at the event he feels even more excited.

Unfortunately, directing a play is not quite as simple as he hoped – especially when the members of the cast don’t necessarily agree with his overall vision for the play, or his directions. He won’t listen to advice from his friend Ronnie and is warned by Miss Pythia:

‘Arlo, you can’t do it all,

Pride always comes before a fall’.

As might be expected, the performance does not go smoothly, although it certainly keeps the audience entertained – especially when it seems that somebody has switched the cardboard prop of Pandora’s Box with the one that Miss Pythia has expressly told them not to touch. When it is opened, chaos is all around them and the curtain is brought down hastily. When the children peer cautiously inside the empty box, they can only see their own faces reflected on the shiny surface. Perhaps a happy solution is in their hands after all because, as in the original story, hope is all that is left:

‘We are the last hope for this play. We can sort out this mess, but we need to work together’.

I really enjoyed this energetic, often funny and positive story about children finding ways to solve problems and eventually learning to work together as a team . Once again, the lively illustrations by Mike Garton add to the atmosphere and show us the very different characters in Class 5P, and their extraordinary teacher. Despite her obvious flair for enthusing the children, Miss Pythia explains that she has to leave and the last chapter introduces us to her replacement, Dr Bland. Somehow I think that he might not be quite as grey and dull as he seems at first, but that will doubtless be another story.’

Read the full review and many others.

The first book Arlo, Mrs Ogg and the Dinosaur Zoo opened up a great adventure for Arlo and friends and we are excited to see what happens next in Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box. You can order these titles here.