Set in the latter 2nd World War years, a small, orphaned (or is he?) boy, Patrick, lives with his uncle in a very sleepy road, where not a lot happens…..so sightings of stripy sea monsters and purple glows are hard to take seriously. After all, your imagination needs a holiday when life is uneventful. Patrick, it seems is a very special little boy, and when a very unusual person arrives one evening in a sailboat (one that floats on air), quite an adventure is about to begin; one that involves affable, 270-foot-long sea monsters, flying islands, extraordinarily filthy and pretty awful pirates, Eddie-herders (you really will have to read this book to understand that), Eskimos, the strangest-ever looking island Chief who collects……well, all sorts of things, an about-to-erupt volcano that needs the chick-shells of the nearly extinct Great Yellow Doom Bird to stop it pouring over Vesuvius-fashion and a very important and very special little yellow rubber duck.
All this is in the charge of the very wonderful Stultus Atticus – I mean wouldn't you sail (float?) away with a seven-foot, orange-haired, Kaleidoscope-eyed, part-time ornithologist whose pinstriped (or polka-dot) jacket holds the contents of a hardware store and whose Breakfast Bag can provide a 6-course French gourmet dinner before you can say 'escargot'? Of course you would.
All the characters in this were just great…….from Patrick's gentle, affable uncle and the mixed but very credible bag of ever-so slightly eccentric neighbours, to the Best Spy-Catcher That Ever There Was and the villainous pirate Captain who had been sailing around the Doldrums for nigh on a couple of centuries. The diversity and details of the characters just further confirmed the talent of the author's incredible imagination and I read every word with what I can only describe as voracity.
The book is classed as one for all ages, but it is fantastically 'busy' and no stone is left unturned with regard to 'scene-setting' – I do wonder whether some of the finer detail may be lost on the younger end of the scale, particularly as it is rather long too. But it would make an absolutely amazing movie – the myriad of characters, colours and adventure would be without question a box-office hit.