The History of a Word 02/07/20
The Hippo at the End of the Hall
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Ben’s ordinary life is disturbed when he receives an invitation to a museum of curiosities. Ben’s mum is wary of letting Ben visit, but he is drawn to the museum because it stirs memories of his dad, who died many years ago.
When Ben visits the museum, he learns that its existence is under threat from a property tycoon and rival museum. He is also shocked to discover that the museum exhibits are alive and can speak! Along with his new friends, Ben becomes embroiled in a mission to save the museum.
Helen Cooper’s magical debut novel is a delightful read, following Ben as he battles witches and crooked adults. With exquisite description and ratcheting tension, it’s easy to become immersed in Ben’s world. The wondrous characters draw you in with their depth and complexity – and you never quite know who can be trusted.
The magical world of the Museum is entwined with reality, though, as Ben and his mum cope with grief and financial worries. The themes are dealt with a gentleness and sensitivity that makes the book a comforting read.
It’s also a great story to stretch vocabularies, with words such as 'spume' and 'lugubrious'. Despite this, younger readers shouldn’t be put off as the story flows well, even with the odd challenging word.