Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review - "A Hen in the Wardrobe"

Home is where the heart is, they say, but what happens when your heart is in more than one place?  For Ramzi’s father, Mr. Ramadan, this causes quite a problem in Wendy Meddour’s debut novel, A Hen in the Wardrobe.  Poor Mr. Ramadan is acutely homesick, you see, and because of this has begun sleepwalking again, leading him to unfortunate and frankly hilarious situations such as searching for the title hen in his son’s wardrobe and climbing a tree as an endangered snow leopard (Mr. Ramadan is also deathly afraid of heights).  When a sleep specialist recommends Mr. Ramadan take a trip home, Ramzi’s father packs up the family and leaves grey, grey England for the mountains of Algeria.  Once home, Mr. Ramadan starts sleeping like a baby, and Ramzi gets to know a home away from home.  Ramzi comes face to face with the nefarious Boulelli, a spider that lives in the woods and feasts upon children, stands up to a bully, and learns that he alone may hold the key to his father’s health and well-being.

A Hen in the Wardrobe is a charming tale of family relations and has a sensitive heart for those who call multiple places around the globe home.  It gets off to a bit of a rocky start, beginning in the middle of the action and hardly slowing down.  I had a hard time with the characters at first, especially Ramzi’s friend Shaima who seems picked straight from the tree of plucky, young, (annoying) genius girls.  But once the story shifts to Algeria, it really spreads its wings and gets comfortable.  The book is full of Arabic words and phrases (and offers a handy-dandy glossary in the back), and colorful characters that really make you feel the place and time.  This is a wonderful book for children who are curious about other cultures and other religions.  On the whole, I am very grateful for books like this, which offer one important step on the road to a more tolerant world.

A Hen in the Wardrobe by Wendy Meddour
2012, Frances Lincoln’s Children’s Books
Final copy sent from publisher for review


  1. Thank you for taking the time to do such a thoughtful and insightful review. The second book in the series has just been published, but it might not be quite your cup of tea as it's centred on Shaima Stalk!!! (She's based on a little Pakistani child-genius I'm friends with. Honest! ) Oh, and I love the title of your blog. Clever.

  2. Thank you for commenting! I'd like to invest in the sequel, because I'm interested to see how you developed Shaima's character. Is it available yet in the US?

  3. I've just asked my publisher .... Will let you know as soon as they respond.

  4. (Now available on kindle in the US. Paperback officially due out early 2013, but some sellers on amazon.com now - though with postage) Hope this is helpful.

  5. Thanks for the info! I don't have a kindle, so I'll look out for the paperback. :)