Another Random House children’s book, read on the Kindle via NetGalley. Yes, it is by that Simon Mayo, of Drivetime fame. I hadn’t realised that this book is a sequel to Itch. Most of the events in the first book are reprised in the second, so the reader can keep up. Itch (short for Itchingham) Lofte is a geeky schoolboy with a passion for chemistry; in particular, for collecting elements. As Itch Rocks begins, he is ‘the most protected boy in the world’, his home taken over by MI5 agents and security guards. In Itch, our hero was in possession of rocks containing a new element, 126. It’s highly radioactive and a potential source of energy. Unfortunately, evil people were after the rocks, so Itch hid them where he hoped they would never be found. The resulting radiation sickness meant months in hospital, a bone marrow transplant and blood transfusions. Now he lives in a fortified house with his parents and sister, their cousin living nearby. Just walking to school requires an armed escort. Unfortunately, this turns out not to be enough to keep the villains away. They want Itch to lead them to the rocks and will stop at nothing.
‘It’s time to save the world again’, reads the strapline on the book’s cover. Poor Itch, he doesn’t want to save the world but circumstances force him to. After the first new attack on the family, thrills, spills and a fair amount of bloodshed follow. Time and again the situation seems resolved, only for a fresh threat to appear which puts Itch, sister Chloe and cousin Jack (a girl) in great danger. What I like about this book is that, apart from Itch’s extraordinary knowledge of science, the children have no special powers, nor have they (thank goodness) been chosen for a quest. They get hurt and frightened. They cry, like any other children, yet knowing the importance of protecting and, if possible, destroying 126 gives them the courage to keep going against the odds.
How can it be possible for a schoolboy and his friends and relations to defeat the forces of evil around them? The answer, I think, is that, in a completely non-pious way, Itch is basically good. He's interested in science for its own sake, while his enemies want to use science for the power and money it will bring them. So he wins because his heart is pure (and because he’s brave and lucky). I was very impressed by this book and think it would grab any reading child’s imagination. I’m keen to read more.