Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweetshop by Rupert Kingfisher
Ooh la la, and sacre bleu! And that’s about as far as my French goes. However, I do have a book set in France for you today – the delicious, the delectable, Madame Pamplemousse.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Company
Our heroine is Madeleine, a little girl with a most unusual friend in Madame Pamplemousse. Madame is a great chef of savouries, and her little shop is full of things that really shouldn’t be tasty but somehow are. Madeleine is somewhat of a cook herself, and is a bit of a child prodigy when it comes to the kitchen. She’s even been on television for it. Unfortunately, her classmates don’t think this is very cool – in fact, they’re jealous of her and start to bully her a little. Poor Madeleine is walking home one day when a nice lady called Madame Bonbon offers her some chocolates from her nearby sweet shop to cheer her up and Madeleine, being too polite to refuse, tries one. Instantly she’s swept away to the spiritual world guarded by the sinister moon-faced man, and we find out that Madame Bonbon is in fact the enemy of Madame Pamplemousse and in her jealousy of Madame Pamplemousse’s success has taken Madeleine away from her!
One for older 5-8 readers, this is an ever so slightly old-fashioned story that’s sure to delight little girls. I love the evil Madame Bonbon and the way she seems slightly fake even when she appears to be ever so nice. The bit when Madeleine first bites into the chocolates is great – horrible tasting, but she can’t seem to stop wanting them and has to have more. The moon faced man, even though he doesn’t play much of a part, doesn’t need to – he’s sinister enough just sitting in the corner of Madeleine’s room and you really want Madame Pamplemousse to find and rescue Madeleiene from his guard.
The one thing that’s odd is that for a book named ‘Madame Pamplemousse’, there’s surprisingly little of her in it! The book mostly follows Madeleine and Madame Bonbon, so that Madame Pamplemousse remains a bit of a mystery. By the end of the book we know all about how Madame Bonbon felt about Madame Pamplemousse as they were growing up, or how Madeleine feels about her bullies, but we don’t know anything really about Madame Pamplemousse. It’s a great way to create interest in a character – keep them shrouded in question marks so that you want to find out more and I’m glad to see there are two more in the series following this one to get to know how Madame Pamplemousse ticks a little better!
There is only one caution about this book, and that is that some of the words are in French, which could be a bit of puzzle to less confident readers. However, an older 5-8 reader should be able to gloss over these without too much trouble and it doesn’t have any real effect on the story whatsoever, it’s just trimming really.