Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent is a young boy, a millionaire, and a genius. His parents own houses all over the world, throw fabulous parties, love people, and are incredibly disorganised. In fact they can’t even remember his whole name, and call him simply H. (Hubert seems to have suffered from parental neglect his entire life: he discovers he can read when his mother leaves him, aged two, tucked up under her gossip magazine. He discovers he can swim when he falls into the swimming pool aged three whilst his parents are entertaining.) The affable absent-mindedness of Hubert’s parents has one predictable result however: they run out of money. Desperate to save his parents from the loss of their beloved mansion, Hubert and his fellow genius and best friend Stanton Harcout III team up to try to save the Bobton-Trent family fortune. His parents’ generosity and love of socialising makes this almost impossible however, and soon Hubert is left with only one option.
This is another book from the formidable Lauren Child, creator of Charlie and Lola. Her typically creative illustrations, part drawing, part collage, are great fun and the text is enjoyable and complex. Our eldest cadet bookworm enjoyed this from around 2 years old but was an exception rather than a rule – in general the book is both long and complicated with some fantastic but very wordy ideas, and is more suited to preschoolers. It is also a real challenge to read as the words wander all over the page! The double-barrelled pseudo-posh names are entertaining to say and make good excuses to practise improving enunciation and clarity. You could also ask children to come up with other ideas that Hubert and Stanton could have used to raise money, or discuss which of the Bobton-Trents’ houses they would rather live in: their old house or their new house.
There are a few inconsistencies in the text – why for example do the Bobton-Trents need to sell their family home when they have three houses around the world they could sell instead? – and less wordy children may struggle with the length of it, but the book is a good read all the same. It has a nice anti-materialistic message at the end (Hubert’s parents don’t mind losing their house, they are pleased to find new people to socialise with in their new flat) and would be an especially good book for bright children in need of a challenge.