When my seven-year-old devours a trilogy over an hour or so, I know I'm on to a good thing. We've been here before with writer Kaye Umansky, whose creations include Pongwiffy, the polluted witch, and the bumbling Sir Quinton Quest who hunts the Yeti. This time, the theme is a twist on the classic Odd Couple story, and the stock characters are at play again. There's the rigid Primm family at number 15 and the chaotic Weird family who move in next door. Mrs Primm is of the nagging, 'dress neatly for dinner' sort, while Mrs Weird is an orange-haired biker stunt-woman who jumps out of aeroplanes and wrestles sharks for a living.
Then there's Mr Weird, the explosive inventor; magical Gran; Ginger, the black cat; and the family's feisty pot plant, who refuses to be beaten in the local plant show. In three short and hilarious books, Pinchton Primm, who starts off as pinched as his name, finds his life opening under the crazy light of the kids next door, Oliver, Otterly and Frankly Weird. Illustrator Chris Mould hits the perfect note with his inky, creepy, black and white drawings, where all the characters look bug-eyed and funny.
The trilogy (Meet the Weirds, Weird Happenings and Wildly Weird) originally appeared between 2003 and 2006, but this time the books are packaged as dyslexia friendly and come on velvety cream paper in a clear and appealing typeface. Umansky, Yeti again, is doing something right. Listen out for the delighted sniggers of 8-10-year-olds, and younger confident readers.