Losing the Plot by Annaleise Byrd and published by Walker Books is such an inventive, clever, creative and humourous middle grade fantasy story. This fractured fairytale will have readers laughing out loud as they adventure with two polar opposite male protagonists, Basil Beedon and Terry Clegg, into a fairy tale world. Once plunged into this world, all is not as it seems, and Basil and Terry learn that they are tasked with helping Gretel save Hansel before a plot hole develops and disaster strikes.

Maintaining a spot on the football team means everything to Terry and is dependent on his school results improving. Enter Terry’s neighbour, Basil, who is an avid reader and has been asked to help Terry with his reading every single Saturday. Being neighbours is in no way an advantage because the street name they share is where the commonalities end for this pair.

The tutoring sessions are short lived because while reading The Complete Fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, Gretel, quite distressed and in tears, erupts from the pages. She is frantic that her brother Hansel is missing and she needs help to find him. Faced with this perplexing conundrum, Basil and Terry must act quickly to solve the mystery of Hansel’s whereabouts.

Their confusion only escalates once in the fairy tale world as they learn more about how it works. It is all so unexpected and defies what they could have ever imagined. Annaleise Byrd’s creative acronyms and witty similes paint a rich and vivid picture of the workings and characters in this fairytale world where all the characters and events are inspired by a Grimm’s fairytale. This place is run by the Fairytale Alliance Network of Character Yunions (FANCY) and this is the body the Yunions report to. Some of the Yunions include: WAS FANCY, that is the Witches And Stepmothers Fairytale Alliance Network Character Yunion, SUPER FANCY, the Stereotypical Unempowered Princesses and Extraneous Royalty and MOST FANCY, THE Morally Outstanding Stars of the Tale and the Yunion Hansel and Gretel belong to.

It is here, in the surprising world, that Basil and Terry discover and draw on each other’s strengths, some of which come as a shock to the other and their unlikely friendship develops. Together they navigate crises, near misses, twists and turns.

Every word is considered in this short story of 128 pages that celebrates the power of reading and friendship. Each of the brief, lively chapters ends with a cliffhanger, making this action-packed story perfect for a read aloud book for students in middle to upper primary school. Byrd’s version of the fairytale world will delight readers as they identify familiar characters, discover a vibrant and alternative fairytale world and inspire further investigation of some not so familiar fairytales and characters. Next year, book two, Down the Plot Hole, is set to be released.

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