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Corby Flood: Far-Flung Adventures    by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell order for
Corby Flood
by Paul Stewart
Order:  USA  Can
David Fickling Books, 2006 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Eight-year old Corby Flood, her parents, sister Serena, and four brothers boarded the S.S. Euphonia at Dundoon to travel the Seven Seas. Corby is the heroine in the second of the lively Far-Flung Adventures launched by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (authors of the famed Edge Chronicles). Grumpy, pessimistic Captain Boris Belvedere has a gloomy outlook about his ship, which was once known as the Empress of the Seas. It now has its burdens with a broken bilge pump, chipped paint, rusty railings, and scuffed decks, compounded by staffing problems. Of his charge, the Captain says, 'The Euphoria's only fit for the scrapheap ... Just like me!' At meals the Captain reminisces with guests about the past glories of what was once 'A veritable floating palace ... dining on roast pheasant stuffed with Orcadian truffles ... and King Adolphus and Queen Rita sat at this very table'.

Among the prominent voyagers are Mr. and Mrs Hattenswiller 'in their tall, conical hats with ear flaps and matching ankle-length coats', who greet Corby, but she can never understand what they say. Noticeable and notable is The Man from Cabin 21 who sits 'all day every day in his deckchair on the starboard deck, staring out to sea'. The Brotherhood of the Clowns is composed of five suspicious and secretive men, who never speak to anyone and hush when someone passes by. They are dressed in smart suits and bottle-green bowler hats. The ship's first officer, Lt. Jon-Jolyon Letchworth-Crisp, is keen on the beautiful Serena Flood. To impress Mrs. Flood, the braggart says, 'I don't intend to remain a humble lieutenant for much longer ... One day I'm going to be a captain, and not of an old rust-bucket like the Euphonia, but of a real ocean liner'. The hard-working third-engineer Arthur is dedicated to the Euphonia, and with just cause. When Arthur and Serena meet on deck, one look sets off the Love Fish, which is noticed by Corby. Mr. Flood is a famous engineer who has taken to his bed suffering from a disappointment. One of his bridges broke apart all because 'the ampersand escalating threading-bolt had failed to escalate'.

Observant Corby writes in her copy of The Hoffendinck's Guide, noting that she doesn't get to see the places featured in the tourist guide up close, so she speculates about people on board the ship. While perambulating the starboard walkway, she walks towards the prow, 'standing up at the very front, with the wind in her hair and the sun in her eyes ... as the prow sliced through the oncoming turquoise-blue waves ... cutting through a never-ending piece of rippling silk in an absolutely straight line.' Corby hears 'a rising and falling mournful cry' coming from the ship's hold. She follows a trail of pink marshmallows to a door just down from Cabin 21, and her heart beats faster as she reaches for the door knob. Corby overhears the five clowns, 'If we pull this little job off for the headmistress of Harbour Heights School, we'll be rich, brothers!' When Corby awakens from falling asleep hiding in a crate, she is in the company of Mama Mesapoliki and sons Nico and Spiro in The Hundred-Years-Old Grocery Store in beautiful Doralakia. She is invited to tea with the mayor Konstantin Pavel, who is very wise and will know what to do to get Corby back to the Euphonia and her family. Suspense mounts, readers, and the story gets even better!

Stewart and Riddell have outdone themselves with Corby Flood. It has it all - great characters, mystery, suspense, love, and jollies, such as the shrinkage in the cleaning process of the clowns' suits, the encasement of Corby when her bunk bed closes against the wall, and the battle of Corby and the clowns sitting in mechanical deckchairs. This is one of the finest ship journeys that a reader can take, and Riddell's black and white illustrations superbly catch the action to the end. Join the travelers on the S.S. Euphonia as they cruise by the Dalcretion Coast (including the towns of Fedrun with its Dancing Pig, Doralakia and its Laughing Goat), while celebrating the Halfway-There Ceremony when travelers dress in costumes and play games of Blind Mermaid's Bluff, and Musical Icebergs (it has been noted that Paul Stewart is good at Musical Icebergs, while Chris Riddell has never met A Laughing Goat, but would very much like to!) Especially impressive is a celebration of The Longest Afternoon on Doralakia. But the gallantry of Corby Flood tops it all. Happy reading shipmates!

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