Twins Perry and Ant (Year Seven) are two years older than Sun Dance, their brother, who is two years the senior of Beaney, their sister. These are the Robinson children, who live in one half of Porridge Hall, an old Victorian house in a Yorkshire seaside town. In the other half live Robin Drogan and his Mum.
One Christmas Mrs Robinson gets pneumonia and Old Blanket, their faithful dog, dies. To make matters worse the weather is horrendous and they are battered by storms, so Mr Robinson decides to take his wife on a recuperative holiday in Barbados and the children are packed off. Perry and Ant go to stay with Mad Aunt Mabel in the Dales and Sun Dance and Beany stay with the Brogans.
However, all does not proceed to plan. When Perry and Ant arrive there's no sign of their aunt, and although they finally find Tilly, she disappears after two days asking them to look after Samson the parrot, two dogs and four cats--there is only one place for such a menagerie, and the children set off for Porridge Hall.
Meanwhile Sun Dance has perfected his burglar trap and Beany's search through the house for the Dolphin Sword, an artefact that brings luck and grants any wish, has proved successful. She wishes that Old Blanket will go to heaven and just to be sure they exhume him, but he's gone. In a hectic flurry of events, Sun Dance captures a burglar and locks him in the bathroom. But the burglar claims to be Mad Aunt Mabel, up at Porridge Hall because she was worried about the twins. Luckily the police believe her and order can finally be restored, just in time for Mr and Mrs Robinson's return.
A highly enjoyable read by the award-winning author of The Exhiles. Hilary McKay has created a family of quite extraordinary characters, whose compelling stories will entertain children of all ages, and their parents.