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Ultra Violet 1: Down to Business

Written by Cristy Burne

Illustrated by Rebel Challenger

Reviewed by Annaleise Byrd

This is the first book in a new junior graphic novel series published by humour specialists Larrikin House. Author Cristy Burne has degrees in biotechnology and science communication and has written many science-themed books for children, including the Wednesday Weeks series. Illustrator Rebel Challenger studied art and science and is a volunteer wildlife carer. Her previous illustration credits include funny picture books G.O.A.T., Mozzies vs Flies and Keeping Up With the Dachshunds. This makes them a dream pairing for a book that is all about science, humour… and poo!
Readers should be under no illusion: this is a story about toilets, and sewers, and fatbergs. If you don’t know what a fatberg is, never fear, this book will enlighten you! The story kicks off when our three heroes (a science-loving kid called Violet Butt, her conspiracy theorist friend Izzy, and a talking hermit crab called Leonardo da Pinchi) set out to unblock the school toilet on the day of the interschool bean-eating competition. Of course, their plan quickly goes down the toilet, and stinky shenanigans ensue. Toilet humour is leaned into 110%, as Izzy would say.
The story also incorporates an impressive amount of science, with mentions of dichotomous keys, iterative prototyping and the fact that 110% is not a valid percentage. There’s also some clever wordplay, amusing asides in the form of ‘artist notes’, an alien invasion to dramatically increase the stakes, a (crabby) pinch of romance, and themes of perseverance and sticking by your friends. Burne even squeezes in some subtle social commentary via the ‘absent parents’ trope being satisfied by Violet’s parents being so smartphone-obsessed they readily agree to let her buy chemicals online and explode their fridge.
Challenger’s black and white illustrations are entertaining, expressive and perfectly pitched for the readership. The ‘References and Other Stuff’ back matter is also set out in a way that will encourage young readers to engage with it – the reward for which is learning what to google to find a BBC video that takes them inside a fatberg! All in all, this book is an impressive mash-up of graphic novel, science and toilet humour that should be well-received by its target market… who will probably learn a thing or two without even realising it.
Larrikin House 2024
Annaleise Byrd is the author of middle grade adventure fantasy Losing The Plot.
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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