Book Review: THE EDDIE DICKENS TRILOGIES by Philip Ardagh (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white on red next to roundel of boys
Genre: Comedy
Age Range: First Readers/Lower MG
Star Rating: 2.5 stars
Series: 6 books


Book cover for THE EDDIE DICKENS TRILOGY: head in a roundel above title on red

Eddie Dickens is sent off to stay with his aunt and uncle and a riotously funny comedy of errors ensues.

When both Eddie Dickens’s parents catch a disease that makes them turn yellow, go a bit crinkly around the edges, and smell of hot water bottles, it’s agreed he should go and stay with relatives at their house, Awful End. Unfortunately for Eddie, those relatives are Mad Uncle Jack and Even-Madder Aunt Maud. . . .

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add the first trilogy to your shelves here and the second trilogy to your shelves here.


So this is a bumper review of six (incredibly) short books in one. With the books under about 200 pages each (most less than 150 pages), there just wasn’t enough to say about them to make six reviews. I was going to write two posts, one for each trilogy, but couldn’t find enough different things to justify that, so here is the review of six books in one! I started writing this after the first book was read, to offset any potential fatigue from reading all six in one go (which happened).

I should start by staying that I am in NO WAY the target audience. I am in my early 20s, and long ago left these early reader books behind. Then why I am reading them? I was lent them by a friend and, in light of recent conversations around the content of some prolific UK MG books, I think there is a place and need for critically reviewing these books.

So what are these books? In a word, bizarre. I wouldn’t say there is a plot, per say, more a series of strange events vaguely strung together. Most chapters act like their own mini story, though to say there is a conflict and resolution is a bit of a stretch. The narrator is an omniscient one, wandering onto tangents, which is probably why the book doesn’t feel like it has a plot until the last chapter, when it’s stuffed in.

And by tangents, I mean every five pages wandering off onto a “oh no, I need to clarify this word that doesn’t need it for three paragraphs” or “let me take two pages out to talk about some backstory with no relevance to the plot so you’ve forgotten what was happening before the tangent.” It made it so much harder to work out what was going on, and for me to keep being interested as the side-wanderers were so ridiculous (which might be an age thing?)

Apparently it’s a riff on Dickens, but honestly, I couldn’t see it. Mostly because the tangents were confusing things.

Is it funny? I don’t really know if someone of the target audience would consider it funny, but the content of the “jokes” makes me wonder. The fact that they’re written in the early 2000s isn’t really an excuse. Most of the humour falls into a few categories:

  • Absurd things happening
  • “Ugly” facial features
  • Eddie’s “Mad” relatives (called “Mad [name]”) doing silly things

So yeah, Eddie’s family’s “maddness” is a joke, which didn’t feel particularly right. Did they need to be labelled “mad”, when “eccentric” would be less offensive and not hark back to the days of the asylums being places of entertainment?

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