The Kensington Reptilarium by N.J. Gemmell
Random House Australia Children's, 2013. ISBN 9780857980502.
(Age: 10+) Nikki Gemmell has published five adult novels and two works of non-fiction with great success under her full name. Now she has turned her hand to a children's novel which, according to a letter introducing the book, she wrote to hook her own sons into reading.
The madcap adventure which is The Kensington Reptilarium incorporates some elements of fact into a crazy scenario of feral bush kids transplanted to post WWII London and a very unwelcoming uncle, who prefers his reptiles to humans of any description, but particularly children.
The Caddy children - Kick, Scruff, Bert and Pin (officially Thomasina, Ralph, Albertina and Phineas) - have been fending for themselves on their outback property since their father took off on one of his regular expeditions. The trouble is that this time, he hasn't returned. The arrival of police and a very elegant London lawyer, Horatio, spells the end of their wild existence and within hours they are whisked off to London and deposited in the creepy house of their uncle Basti (Sebastian). Basti's plan had been for the children to go to an orphanage and certainly not into the midst of his eccentric and solitary life surrounded by reptiles of all varieties, so from the very moment the colonial Caddy kids arrive, pandemonium erupts!
As kids and uncle slowly begin to create a familial relationship, other characters come into play to help the process. A Christmas like no other is in store for this bunch - and after much strife all is resolved in a happy ending for a very unusual family.
The larger than life characters, the fast moving plot and the addition of special attractions such as Perdita the hooded cobra will engage readers, both boys and girls, from 10 years up.