26 May 2011

Library staff book review: "The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher"

The life of a teenage body snatcher by Doug MacLeod is one of the titles shortlisted in the Children's Book Council of Australia's older readers category for 2011. It is a witty and fast paced adventure suitable for those aged around 14+.

Set in England in 1828, the story takes place during a time in history when a shortage of corpses available for medical research saw a rise in the ‘profession’ of grave robbing. Enter 16 year old Thomas Timewell, who had promised his recently buried grandfather he would ensure his body was donated to science. While exhuming his grandfather’s body in the cemetery in the dead of night he is taken by surprise by a man who introduces himself as Plenitude. They soon get to arguing about the fate of the body and Plenitude asserts:

'Your grandfather is most certainly not going to Dr Luscombe. I know his anatomy school and it is not a good one. He once dissected a deer. Now, what are the students going to learn from that? How to remove a person's antlers?’

What follows is a comical and sometimes gruesome series of misadventures as Thomas tries to fulfil his dying grandfather’s wish. Along the way he encounters a series of colourful and often shady characters including a meat cleaver-wielding gypsy and the grim reaper.

Not unexpectedly, given the title, the story is quite gory in places so be warned. Despite being set in the 19th century the language used in this book is very accessible to modern audiences. It should appeal to those who like their comedy inky black and razor sharp. In one laugh-out-loud passage, a reluctant Thomas has the facts of life explained to him by his hopelessly laudanam-addicted mother.

This is Doug MacLeod at his very best!

To borrow this and other titles by Doug MacLeod, search our catalogue.

To find details of other shortlisted titles, visit the Children's Book Council of Australia website.