Dashe Roberts is another debutant in the world of middle grade children’s books. In what is already a saturated market, The Bigwoof Conspiracy is definitely one that stands out from the crowd and capitalises on the recent surge in popularity of all things sci-fi, think Stranger Things and the like - but a little more child-friendly. Her debut read, Sticky Pines: The Bigwoof Conspiracy, is all the best bits of science-fiction rolled into one big, ‘sweet and sticky’ offering. Much like Lucy, the main protagonist in The Bigwoof Conspiracy, I don’t have all the facts but I would surmise that Roberts was brought up on a TV diet of Alex Mack, The X-Files and Scooby Doo, amongst others.
Life is tough when you’re a kid - no-one believes you and no-one will listen. At least this is the predicament that twelve-year-old Lucy Sladan finds herself in. Just try telling her that there is no such thing as UFO’s; she believes that something ‘extra’ is out there and she’s going to damn well make sure that people start taking her seriously. So when the residents of Sticky Pines start mysteriously disappearing, Lucy is determined to find an explanation for the strange goings-on. Armed with her parent’s old camera and her backpack, she sneaks out into the woods in the middle of the night to find the proof she needs to convince the locals.
After finding rather more than she expected in the woods including a thunderstorm, a hairy monster and a thirteen-year-old boy named Milo, Lucy is certain she is getting closer to the truth. Lucy and Milo must work together to uncover the mystery of Sticky Pines and its wacky residents. The answers seem to lie in an artificial sweetener, a hairy monster (otherwise known as Bigwoof), a pratfall of clowns and the suspicious Mr. Fisher (Milo’s father). But with ill-fortune seemingly attached to Lucy and with trouble present wherever she goes, it is going to be one big challenge to convince the Sticky Pines locals that they are ‘not alone’, and in uncovering the truth, Lucy might find she has more questions than answers.
This is a great read for developing curiosity in children. It teaches them that sometimes they really have to search for the answers if they want to know the truth, and through Lucy they are shown the qualities that are needed. She is tenacious, brave, adventurous and solves problems. Lucy is a great role model for young girls and by introducing Milo as Lucy’s partner in crime, Roberts is able to convey a strong message of female leadership as we see Lucy making decisions, supporting Milo and taking the initiative.
Roberts grew up in California and the read does have a strong American flavour to it which I really like - if I think mysterious goings-on, I immediately think USA and Area 51. The story is set in the US which adds authenticity and it works perfectly - the fictitious town of Sticky Pines (or at least I hope it is), The Sticky Sweet Company, Big Crater Valley, Big Crater Mountains - all have that real American feel to them.
This is a funny and fast-paced mystery that will enthuse and capture the interest of even the most reluctant readers. The Bigwoof Conspiracy is the first in a series that will no doubt include more mystery and strange goings-on in Sticky Pines. The next instalment, The Thing At Black Hole Lake, publishes later this year.
Recommended for 8+.