The Book That Made Me: Philip Reeve 16/10/19
The All Mine Academy
Publisher: Editrice Il Castoro
A hilarious story of an unwanted boy's determination to do good despite the efforts of his dastardly parents.
First is the kindest, most trusting boy on the planet, but is born to Katiuscia and Gregor Smirth, two penny-pinching, egocentric parents who hate children and merely wanted him as an heir. Despite their efforts to teach First that only greed and selfishness make the world go round, he grows up an optimist who likes to give their money away. First is exploited at his mother's antiques shop by a crafty vagrant, then hoodwinked out of a Ming vase by another crooked customer. His honesty foils a major business scam at his father's estate agency, incurring the wrath of his father, who had masterminded the whole thing. When the Smirth's home is raided by vagrants, invited in by First to his birthday party, his parents pack First off to the famous "All Mine Academy" in the hope the strict teachers will knock sense into their son. First ping-pongs from one calamity to another, unleashing the full power of his kindness, managing to turn the school into a virtual temple of peace, love and eco-education. In the finale, a carousel of noble counts, millionaires and the queen herself are rolled out to foil a dastardly plot, and to show how generosity and a big heart can win the day.
Here's what our judges had to say:
"The All Mine Academy has a Dahlesque quality of caricature, and a lightness of tone. Grotesquely selfish adults have less power in the end than a kind-hearted boy they cannot corrupt to their way of thinking. It's always satisfying to young readers when they have the upper hand, and this fable has its heart in the right place." – Nicolette Jones
"From the opening paragraphs I was hooked by this charming tale of First and his (mis)education at the All Mine Academy. The set-up is diabolical, and First's parents are truly grotesque in their intention, but this is all balanced by his sunny and genuine nature. Crammed with quirky details and hilarious situations as the parents go to extreme lengths to mould him into their likenesses, the words spring off the page and really bring First to life, illustrating that humour is universal and translates so well from the pen of a talented author." – Gary Powell
"A wonderfully quirky story about a boy who doesn't have a bad bone in his body. His positive innocence infuriates those who try everything to change him. A terrific feel good story for all those who dream of a better world" – Simon Key