Monday, April 30, 2007

Hamish X and the Cheese Pirates

Hamish X and the Cheese Pirates, by Sean Cullen


Sean Cullen, Canadian comic and sometime actor, makes his first foray into children's literature with this fantastically titled, Hamish X and the Cheese Pirates. The sequel, Hamish X and the Hollow Mountain was released this March, 2007.

The book is quite original. It centres around a cheese factory, the Windcity Orphanage and Cheese Factory, to be exact. This is a dreadful place run by the dastardly Viggo Schmidt, who forces his workers into 10 hour shifts with only to meal of porridge a day to sustain them. And the workers? Orphans donated by the ODA - the Orphan Disposal Agency. Everything is going well for Viggo until a new orphan called Hamish X arrives at the Orphanage and Cheese Factory. Hamish X is an orphan of unknown age, and mysterious past. The only clues to his identity being a boring book about plumbing left to him by his mother, and a pair of somehow magical boots that he has never once taken off.

Hamish X begins to shake things up in Windcity, and it is about this time that the Cheese Pirates arrive on the scene, kidnapping all of the orphans and adults, except for Hamish X and his two new friends Mimi and Parveen, who were up to something when the pirates arrived, and escaped their notice. It is then up to these three children to embark on an arctic quest to rescue the orphans from Cheesebeard and the Cheese Pirates.

The Cheese Pirates are an interesting crew, led by Cheesebeard, a repulsive man with a crusty cheese filled beared. Cheesebeard has a vendetta to settle with Hamish X who he accuses of having murdered his brother Soybeard, who happened to be lactose intollerant. The Cheese Pirates have been marauding cheese factories throughout the world, and kidnapping the world's greatest cheesemakers.

I had really high hopes for this book. I'd heard Sean Cullen speaking about it on the radio, and it had sounded fabulous. In reading it, I found myself putting it down quite regularly, I wasn't hooked. I wanted to know what happened, but it was very easy to step away for several days at a time. One thing I did quite enjoy was his use of footnotes. These were placed throughout the book to explain various words and ideas, to give points of history, or to emphasize certain jokes.

The book did also have some moments of comic greatness. But, the narrative felt somewhat old and done, and the characters were quite predictable. And, it ended on a cliffhanger that was so cliffhangery as to leave the reader completely unsatisfied with the conclusion.

On the whole, this is a decent book. Enjoyable, but not enthralling. I would recommend it for kids who loved Captain Underpants about 3 years ago. It is too hard for them right away, but has some of the same kinds of humour.

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