The tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond

cover image

Ill. by Alex T. Smith. Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406358070
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Perception, Schools, Angels, Education. When grumpy bus driver, Bert, finds an angel in his top pocket, he takes him home to his wife, Betty and together they name the little fellow, Angelino. Betty, a cook a the local school, takes the angel to enroll him at the school, but the school at the moment is in some disarray. Their head teacher is on leave because of his nerves, and has been replaced by Acting Head Teacher, Mrs Mole, anxious to be seen to be doing well. Angelino is a hit with the kids at school, but not with Mrs Mole, who sees the angel causing some relaxing of the straight lines and hands up approach she wants.
Into the mix comes a mysterious stranger, set on getting the angel for himself, ready to sell him to the highest bidder: a bishop, soccer team or artist.
A chaotic story ensues, with the angel getting bigger as he eats custard from the school canteen, learning to say a few apparently meaningless sentences, endearing himself to all those who see him, except perhaps Mrs Mole. A few side remarks about education, a smattering of lessons about grammar, with lots of funny situations make this a quirky read which children will heartily enjoy: the story of an angel who makes a difference in people's lives.
When Angelino is kidnapped by two almost men with troubled pasts, he is able to endear himself to them, and when found by trio of students from the school, Betty and Bert decide that all the kidnappers need is some good parenting, so take them home as well.
A delightful read all the way to the end, Almond always manages to disarm the reader, attaching them to a story which swerves into fantasy and yet we want to believe that such things can happen, that Bert and Betty can get a new son, that the kidnappers can be parented back to being good citizens, that the acting head can be rehabilitated into a teacher of children not of department policy. The vision of the department heads squirreling themselves away in an office with the shades drawn and a no entry notice on the door, making policies about the school without seeing one child is hilarious and should make every school administrator rethink their purpose.
Fran Knight