Caleb’s Cab by Sally Chomet
Published by Walker Books
Caleb was just sitting down to a spam curry dinner he’d made when the police arrived. Most 11-year-old boys don’t have to cook dinner by themselves, but Caleb’s Dad had gone missing and his mother couldn’t even make a cup of tea without help. Caleb was doing his best to at least put dinner on the table, but with no cook books, the results weren’t exactly spectacular, hence spam curry. Anyway, the police had a lead on his Dad’s whereabouts and Caleb was keen to follow it up. He dons his moustache and hat and gets in his Dad’s taxi cab. Luckily for Caleb, his father had taught him to drive, but he does have to pretend to be an adult or no one would pay for a taxi ride. There is a far more desperate reason for Caleb to hide his childish features, one that is explained when Caleb makes an unexpected stop at the local bingo hall and his disguise is pierced. Suddenly, the sedate bingo hall is engulfed in chaos as the elderlies are thrilled to recognise a real live child in front of them.
When Caleb picks up a strange woman to the town, “Mrs Zee”, in his cab his adventures truly begin. A dual dimension where England was beaten by France in the middle ages of history, where gold is worthless like loose coins to throw to buskers) but tin is prized beyond measure, and where executioners still do their business in the town hall, is only part of the real mystery that Caleb discovers.
In the dual dimension that Caleb slips into in a wild ride in the cab, he discovers his Dad is going to be executed for the murder of “Mrs Zee”. Caleb knows he just has to get Mrs Zee back home to save his Dad. You’d think it would be easy, but, of course, there is further mayhem, mishaps, and evil to combat in this thrilling tale of adventure.
Caleb gets sold by his mother for “C.A.S.H”, the villainous banker and his minions behind the scheme drug the kidnapped children and train them to work inside ATMs in a world gone wild for money. Caleb not only has to escape in time to save his Dad, he also needs to save other children, particularly his best friend, from the evil that has engulfed a town where money is king. This is a wild adventure and Caleb does save the day in an unforgettable scene at the dual dimension town hall execution. However, not all the elements of this adventure are resolved by the ending, and a tantalizing “To be continued” leaves the reader eagerly awaiting the second book.
The illustrations in this book are full colour and delightful. A chapter of letters between Caleb and his Mum creates an interesting effect of moving the story along while little action takes place, and helps to explain Caleb’s feelings. The plot is fast, and despite the fantastic elements, somehow engulfing and even believable for the reader. Young readers will delight in this tale, however, some adult readers may be disturbed by the lack of adult responsibility and even evil adults portrayed in the book. Perhaps the obvious over-exaggeration will help children to gloss over these elements, as most of the readers would identify the unlikelihood of children being sold or the improbability of being put inside ATMs. A certain maturity would help young readers realise the fantasy of this story is not only in the dual dimension, but in the weird events in what is supposedly a normal town in England.
This is a fantastic tale in the true sense of the word: fantasy runs throughout the story from the first page. The characters are exaggerated and funny, for the main part, but Caleb is brave, determined, and above all, endearing, so readers will identify with him in his adventures. Caleb’s Cab is a great adventure, an enjoyable read, and allows the reader to slip into another world as soon as they open the pages.
Sit down, fasten your seatbelts, and hang on tight for the wild ride of Caleb’s Cab.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Sally Chomet
Illustrator: Sylvain Chomet
Title: Caleb’s Cab
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: November 2016