An alien in the jam factory by Chrissie Sains. Illus. by Jenny Taylor

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Chrissie Sain's debut novel An alien in the jam is a highly inventive, humorous romp of a first chapter book. It is a very busy book both in the plans and inventions of the central character young Scooter and the pace of the plot. Interesting, detailed illustrations and labelled diagrams complement the text and appear on every page to delight the young reader. The busyness extends to the interior of the jam factory which is the setting of the book. An alien in the jam could be described as a book form of the game of Mousetrap with the addition of goodies, likeable, klutzy baddies and secret patents for inventions.

Scooter's life is entirely about creativity with the intent being to invent and protect the patents on wonderful jams for the family jam factory. Scooter has Cerebral Palsy but he has marvellous adaptive aids, handbot 1 and 2, to help him with the physical side of his condition. Scooter was born with a super-creative brain and being more intelligent than his parents, is responsible for the creation of the marvellous secret jam recipes and the success of the family factory. Ofcourse there is a villain who wants the secret recipes. Her name is Daffy Dodgy. She and Boris, her guineapig sidekick, devise a break-in and find that Scooter and his new friend, an alien called Fizzbee, are more than a match for them. 

Scooter was a lonely child but he finds friendship with Fizzbee. The silliness in An alien in the jam is quite natural and unforced. Read aloud with attention to varying the different character's voices would be amusing for young children as the dialogue lends itself to performance. It's a fun book.

Through identifying with the thoroughly likeable Scooter, children might be provoked to delve without restriction into the creative, inventive worlds of their own imaginations.

Themes: Inventions, Creativity, Friendship.

Wendy Jeffrey