Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 19 Mar 2019

Secret Supervillain VS Lightening Girl by Alesha Dixon, illustrated by James Lancett  and Mike Love

Twelve year old Aurora Beam, aka Lightening Girl, is one of the Bright Sparks, a much admired team of child superheroes who have defied all manner of evil in the previous two books about their exciting and often dangerous adventures. 

This one opens with the children visiting Buckingham Palace to be awarded medals from the Queen. After the award ceremony she requests a private audience with Aurora so that she can hear all the details about the events that have led up to the momentous occasion – a useful way into the story for those readers like myself, who haven’t come across this series before.

Aurora is one of a family whose various superpowers have been passed down through all the women for centuries and these seem to be related to a precious stone known as The Light of the World which is kept at The Natural History Museum where her Professor dad works. All the family members are sharply drawn but I rather liked pink haired Nanny Beam who not only‘runs a rescue sanctuary for animals in Cornwall but also happened to be head of M15, with a secret underground lair in her house and a bright pink flying car. Family life is never dull and the children are used to waking up to find both parents busy away from the house:

‘A man in Brighton has built a huge machine in the shape of a crab and is roaming the beaches threatening everyone with its pincers. Mum’s gone to sort it out.’

As with all the best superhero stories, it is the dastardly baddies that need to convince the reader that they are worthy of their evil reputations. In this case it is the slippery Mr Mercury who keeps popping up and then disappearing again. Aurora is increasingly frustrated that she has been told not to interfere with the secret plans of the grown- ups who are carefully plotting to bring about his capture and downfall. Last time she tried to find his whereabouts she ended up being arrested! Even her elder brother Alexis seems to be more in on the action with his internship helping with a top secret project at the renowned Vermore Enterprises, an organisation run by her distant and charismatic cousin, Darek Vermore. There wouldn’t really be much of a story if Aurora wasn’t tempted to be a little bit disobedient, and she soon becomes embroiled in a new mission, aided and abetted by her unconventional Aunt Lucinda with her sidekick  ostrich, Arthur, who creates mayhem wherever he goes.     

What happens next is complicated by the involvement of all the other Bright Sparks and their various superpowers, and I found that this made the story feel as if it had been unnecessarily padded out. Without giving away too much, Aurora is forced to return to London from a school trip to Paris when she receives a frantic text message from her brother. The story comes full circle when we are returned to Buckingham Palace and a rather unexpected plot twist involving the Queen herself.

 It has to be said that this is a ‘celebrity’ novel which at first rather put me off reading it. I guess I am not the intended audience and know nothing about the famous author Alesha Dixon, although I was pleased to see that her co- author Katy Birchall is at least acknowledged on the back of the book.  One thing that pleased and surprised me was the way the story emphasised the value of research using books, as Aurora’s younger sister Clara is an avid reader and Kizzy, one of the Bright Sparks, is always using books to find out interesting information – she even takes a heavy encyclopaedia on their trip to Paris. There are also plenty of lively illustrations throughout which add to the atmosphere and help to convey the personalities of all the characters. I must admit that overall I enjoyed this pacey, if overlong story and I think that it would certainly engage young readers who will be delighted to know that the fourth story in the series is already underway.

Karen Argent

March 2019