Young Piccolo Grande lives a solitary life in his big family home. His parents are missing in the ‘tropics’ and his only friends are a pair of perch in the fishpond. But Piccolo doesn’t mind. He is an orderly boy who enjoys making lists and flossing his teeth and he seems quite capable of looking after himself. That is, until the day a small red-haired lady crashes into his life announcing that she is his guardian angel. Annabelle is all bumble and goodwill; a well-meaning accident-prone irritant who sets about wreaking havoc in Piccolo’s orderly life. At first the boy resists her but when she reveals that an angel inspector is due to visit, Piccolo reluctantly decides to help because, despite the disturbance in his life, having her around is fun.
Stephen Axelsen has some enjoyable turns of phrase, such as the awful reporter Miss Stringer ‘swiveling her turtle neck about Piccolo’s hall’, but there is a self-conscious tone to this story that just didn’t work for me. The trouble with Piccolo is that he really is dull; and Annabelle really is annoying. The pictures are more fun than the plot and this may be because Axelsen is primarily an illustrator.
A Very Messy Inspection is billed as Volume One of a trilogy so perhaps the main characters will develop as the stories evolve. Some readers will enjoy the silly situations but the story just isn’t as funny nor as quirky as it thinks it is. Not, as the author nicely puts it, my ‘cup of hot chocolate’. Suitable for fluent readers age 8+.