The Great Ice-Cream Heist is a fast paced adventure, full of 'edge of your seat' drama, about sticking up for your friends. The story, being action-packed, will appeal to both boys and girls and is ideal for children at Key Stage 2 who need more sustained stories.
The main protagonist, Eva, lives a quiet life with her over-protective Dad. Eva cannot read and as such is quite happy to spend her time at home with her Dad and invent adventures with him. This soon changes though when a new family move in next door. Both Eva and Jamie (the boy from next door) are 'forced' to attend the local youth centre over the summer holidays. They quickly become friends. But then everything goes wrong and Jamie is in trouble. Eva knows it's down to her to help him, even if it means upsetting Dad in the process.
The Great Ice Cream Heist is a lesson about not judging people on appearances. Warm-hearted, moving and never heavy handed, it approaches a range of issues including bereavement, dysfunctional families and children in care with sensitivity and directness.
The book contains some loveable characters, in particular Eva, and as such provides an ideal text with which to study characterisation. Eva is timid and loyal and readers will witness her grow as a person: watch her get outside of her comfort zone, overcome fears, make new friends and even address her embarrassment about not being able to read.
Teachers could use a range of drama techniques to help children empathise with Eva, such as conscience alley to consider the options Eva has and the decisions she needs to make, hot-seating to understand Shan's prejudice and how it is completely shaken by the end of the book; thought-tracking to understand and reflect upon the reasons behind Gran's actions. Elen Caldecott's brilliant writing also exemplifies how authors 'show not tell' how their characters are feeling through their dialogue and actions.
The climax of the story, is really fun, edge of your seat stuff. The pace and excitement of the drama is masterfully achieved through the use of a range of authorial devices such as short sentences, simile, dialogue, alliteration and sibilance. Coupled with this is the fact that Shan is supposed to be appearing on local radio. Teachers could use this part of the story as a springboard to a whole range of writing including the pupils writing their own exciting, dramatic chase using the devices identified in the book, a newspaper report of the incident, a television interview or even a playscript.
Poignant yet full of humour and fun, this is a carefully-balanced story with a clear message about the value of friends, family and the local community - and the importance of not judging others.