The Caravan At The Edge Of Doom by Jim Beckett and Illustrated by Olia Muza
Published by Farshore

IN this, his debut novel, Jim Beckett brings a fresh take to the world of middle grade comedy. Though it’s the first of its kind he’s written, the story gives readers aged eight-12 the kind of content that’s easy enough to keep reading and come back to, but challenging enough to help grow and develop a love for literature.

This is a book that combines the mundane with the otherworldly and the high stakes of a brilliant adventure story, all laced with an unapologetic light-hearted humour.

With the beautiful, fitting and scene-setting black and white illustrations by Olia Muza, an endlessly funny protagonist and role model, and a mature discussion on more serious themes like familial relationships and handling the concept of death over the course of the book, it is exactly the kind of story I gravitated to when I was younger, and that still has a distinct charm today.

Harley knows her grandparents are sick but what she doesn’t know is that all four of them will take their turn to file into the toilet of their holiday caravan when she comes to visit.

None of it makes sense and it throws her into a panic until it’s explained by her Nana, the last to make the leap, that the toilet of their getaway home is not only that, but a portal of doom.

For years they had secretly been the keepers of this portal but now, at their time to enter, leaving behind life for the land of the dead, that responsibility has been left to Harley.

Beyond the shock there’s only one problem with the plan, Harley’s little brother Malcolm has accidentally disappeared right alongside them after his hiding place within a wheelie bag is forgotten.

Now suddenly some very big choices must be made as not only will her oblivious parents arrive to join the holiday the following morning, if Malcolm is left in the land of the dead for 24 hours he’ll be stuck there forever, with no means of escape.

Our main character comes to the conclusion that she must enter the portal of doom, navigate The Land Of The Dead and rescue her brother all before her parents arrive at the caravan.

With the added pressure of a 24-hour time limit the story becomes far more intense and fast paced, especially with each chapter beginning with exactly how much time is left down to the minute, a thoughtful detail that helps build the excitement.

Aside from the many twists and obstacles she faces, Harley’s adventure is written with the kind of sense of humour that stops it from ever becoming too upsetting to enjoy.

Despite being new to the scene Jim Beckett shows a distinct knack for creating a great hero and story for young people to relate to and devour and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future, set in The Land Of The Dead or otherwise.