What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible, by Ross Welford

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‘At first, I don’t notice that I have become completely invisible.

And then I do.’

What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible is the second novel by Ross Welford, author of the bestselling Time Travelling With a Hamster (which I wrote about here). It’s the tale of twelve-year-old Ethel Leatherhead who, in her quest to cure her acne, accidentally turns herself invisible. There are two main themes: the logistics of dealing with invisibility, and the story of Ethel’s discovery of her identity.

The sections of the book which dealt with the logistics of invisibility were my favourites. Although there was not as much science-fiction as in Time Travelling With a Hamster, the detail included in these passages, the sense of the extraordinary existing alongside the everyday, were wonderful. As with the earlier book, What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible is written in the first-person, which helps to keep it people-centred. Both stories are set in the same area of the north-east coast, and though there is no overlap in characters it adds to the reality of the setting. It’s this kind of everydayness that I love about Ross Welford’s writing, and why I enjoyed this book so much.

It’s impossible to go into the story of Ethel’s identity without ruining the plot, so I won’t say too much about that here. Identity in general is something I find very interesting (it forms a key theme of my PhD after all), so for me this was naturally a fascinating aspect of the book. Perhaps strangely however, for a book about someone turning invisible, I also found this aspect to be slightly less convincing. This seems an odd criticism to make about a children’s book though, and it certainly didn’t stop me from enjoy the story. Ethel’s attempts to uncover her identity add a lovely element of mystery too.

All in all it’s another wonderful book, and definitely recommended. If nothing else, it contains all the elements of a properly classic children’s book: parents/guardians who are conveniently absent much of the time and children who seem to have far too much responsibility and behave quite terribly but still manage to get away with it without becoming the villains of the piece!

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