Opie Jones Talks to Animals by Nat Luurtsema

Illustrated by Fay Austin.

Published by Egmont, 2021.

Opie Jones Talks to Animals is the first book in a brilliantly funny new middle-grade series. Ten-year-old Opie Jones is just a regular kid and no-one is more surprised than her when she gets recruited to join The Resistance – a team of superheroes who can read minds and have a dastardly, brainwashing villain to defeat. However, it turns out that her superhero power is a bit disappointing. Opie can read animal minds, not human ones. However, maybe this might just be the skill set needed to overturn Hugo Varling…

Children are going to love this book! It’s very funny – snort-out loud stuff – and which school kid hasn’t dreamt of having super powers? The cast of animals Opie mind reads are a riot too: Margot Von Catton, the neighbour’s aloof cat; the drearily dull worms; the super-aggressive giant seagull; and my personal favourite, Malcolm the guinea pig and self-styled therapist. Fay Austin’s humorous illustrations are going to be a hit too.

I also love a good super villain and we’ve certainly been given one in Hugo Varling, a local business tycoon who is ruthless in his ambition. He reminded me a bit of Donald Trump actually, especially in this description of him in his office. It’s in the tallest skyscraper in London and has VARLING emblazoned on the side in golden letters:

He was a very rich man who owned four houses, a plane and a private island and still needed to put his name on things to feel special.

Opie Jones Talks to Animals, page 86

Varling’s evil plan is to demolish schools and build his warehouses in their place. Children would no longer attend school but would instead pack boxes all day long in his warehouses. He’s paid off a team of telepaths to do his evil bidding and they’re using their powers for mind control – inciting children to violence and crime so that they’ll be expelled from school and there’ll be little resistance to his plans from the rest of society. It’s up to Opie to save the day!

Aside from all the superhero antics, Opie Jones Talks to Animals is a book about friendship: making friends when you’re shy, navigating the tricky dynamics of a friendship of three, and having the guts to apologise and make amends when you’ve done something wrong.

Opie is a terrific character – bright, with a dry sense of humour, but also shy and lacking confidence in some situations. The book has an important message about overcoming fear and pushing yourself. I also loved Opie’s perseverance and determination as she works hard to hone her new mind reading skills. A quick shout-out for her fantastically laid-back actor parents too, who think nothing of serving ice lollies for dinner!

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Egmont for sending me this book to review.

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