Marsham Lucas is a genius…well, so his Gran believes, so it’s for this reason that she signs him up for Britain’s Smartest Kid competition. Unbeknown to the rest of his family and friends, Marsham is being teased at school for being clever and has been deliberately scoring average marks in class to prevent him from standing out. He agrees to enter the show only if he can do so in disguise – as Daniel Phillips. However, Marsham gets more than he bargains for when he realises that some of the events will take place on ice and that he is not the only one with something to hide.
Marsham, Gran and her friend Ethel (who is responsible for Marsham’s transformation into Daniel) make a dream team throughout the story and I love the connection that Marsham has with the older characters in the story. The more he learns about Ethel in particular, the more he realises that ‘old people’ (as he describes them) have their own stories to tell. This will provide a lovely opportunity to discuss with children the importance of getting to know people and finding their hidden depths.
The most important message in this book, and one that I was so pleased to see at the heart of the story, raises the question of what it means to be ‘smart.’ Having a substantial amount of knowledge and interest in particular topics is wonderful but honesty, being true to yourself, learning from mistakes and showing kindness to others are equally important qualities to have.
‘You are super intelligent in your own way. And, truthfully, it’s not about winning anymore, it’s about having fun.’
This is a brilliant book to encourage reading for pleasure and I would place it in class libraries from Year 5 onwards or use it as a class text. Its combination of clever comic timing and a strong cast of characters, each on their own journey, will provide not only enjoyment but scope for children to consider who they identify with most and why.
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