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Book Review: Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help by Douglas Anthony Cooper

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Remember "Moaning Myrtle"? (it hasn't been that long)? And remember how despite her epithet "moaning", each and every encounter with her ends up being hilariously funny? Well, Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help by Douglas Anthony Cooper is full of such Myrtles, with differing degrees of humour and potential for humour.

Milrose Munce is a genius with a secret: the halls of his school are filled with the ghosts of students who died there, and only he can see them. Although he is not very fond of the jocks in the basement or the artists on the second floor, he fits in very well with the victims of science on the third floor. And he is very happy socialising with and learning from his other-worldly friends. So, it comes as a surprise to him that quirky fellow captive Arabella can also see the ghosts.

The talent of "talking to air" and "giving the air pats on its back" has earned both of them a spell with the dreaded Professional Help, in the form of Massimo Natica. And although they have no idea (to start with) what the Professional Help is, once they start, the Help confirms all their fears. First of all, the Den is reached by turning left where you cannot turn left, on the ghost-free first floor, and they have doubts how "Professional" the help is, what with the absence of any diplomas. But that's just for starters, and the Professional Help is going to be pretty much deadly (and not only for Milrose and Arabella), unless they can find a way to reunite with their ghostly buddies.

Milrose Bysshe Munce is a genius, and is sarcastic enough to know it. Which of course means he has learnt everything before it is taught in class. But to be fair, he appreciates the rare strokes of genius (and sarcasm) the teachers can come up with. He is very interested in explosions (for science's sake, not for blowing anybody up), and of course, in the birthmark of Caroline Corduroy (the erstwhile flame of his friend, Cryogenic Kelvin). His interest in explosions is probably the most important thing that can help him and Arabella escape the Den, but of course, he has to master the art of deplosions for that.

Arabella doesn't like to give anybody her name, but knows everybody's name, since that gives her an upper hand. She is also no less quick-witted than Milrose, but unlike Milrose, she fits better with the artists on the second floor than the scientists on third (which is probably the only thing which makes Milrose jealous of the epic poet, Poisoned Percy). Oh, not to forget, she is helping a flower which is the last member of its species (and hence trying hard to be a flower).

With these two to be Helped, any Professional would have his hands full. But Massimo Natica, with his unorthodox ways and the power of making people make what he wants, is definitely the man for the job. Although he does not use crude traditional ways like strait-jackets and cattle-prods, his Den is full of such antiques. And his record speaks for itself when it comes to "Helping" students and people.

The ghostly horde we meet has accepted their deaths, and indeed find the causes to be full of humour. And they are mostly harmless, unless of course, you count the "epic poem" of Poisoned Percy on "Indigestion". But they rise wonderfully to the cause of their friends, overcoming their fears, and broadening their knowledge. With a timorous jockey and an explosion-deplosion specialist at the front, they are really a force to reckon with, even for The Exorcist (considered the Mother of All Exorcists).

All in all, even though Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help comes under Juvenile Fiction, I would recommend not giving the book to your kids until they know about science, for the book will definitely give them some ideas. Once they know about the dangers of science, this book will be a laugh-riot, not to mention a tale about how you are not supposed to be pondering two birthmarks at the same time, and how the names should be "balanced". Not to mention, how you should respect your teachers when they make witty remarks, and how you do reap what you sow.

Oh, and before you ask… Yes, the person smiling to himself in the coffee shop last week was me. And yes, the reason was this book.

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