The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

 Published: 4th April 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Scholastic
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★    ★    ★    ★  – 4 Stars

All Tom Gates wants to do is get tickets to see his favourite band when they come to town. It’s not easy when he’s up against Delia, his weirdo big sister. All of his plans seem to get him into major trouble!

I wasn’t expecting this to be such a funny book. I was reading and actually laughed out loud at some of the things Pichon has written. It was such a different experience than Wimpy Kid where I disliked it almost immediately. The premise is the same (young kid, diary, shenanigans) but the reading experience and the content is so much better. It’s a case of English versus American which accounts for the differences and once you realise that you understand the different styles of humour.

I will admit, Tom is a little mean, but it’s childlike and a bit more innocent. The kind of annoying kid in class that make teachers want to retire early and hold back their exasperated sighs. It’s fairly harmless joking and being an annoying younger brother than actually being cruel or deceitful. You believe that Tom is being himself and not really thinking things through, there is no real intended malice in his actions.

He isn’t constantly like this though; for the most part, he is a young kid who is in a band with his friend, he is embarrassed by his dad’s clothes, wants to see his favourite band, and tries to impress a girl at school. When he gets in trouble he learns his lesson and there is a cheekiness about Tom that makes you smile, even when he is in the wrong.

One of the things I loved is that it’s very interactive with the inclusion of the pictures. Tom is a character who doodles in his school books and you experience his days through his drawings on the page as much as the words he’s written. It goes beyond one drawing per page, there are drawings through the text and pages where it is just drawings and a random array of Tom’s thoughts and emotions. It portrays a young boy’s book extremely well and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

You can purchase The Brilliant World of Tom Gates via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Audible | Fishpond | Wordery

Advertisements

Mr Stink by David Walliams

Published: October 2009
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Pages: 267
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…”

It all starts when Chloe makes friends with Mr Stink, the local tramp. Yes, he smells a bit. But when it looks like he might be driven out of town, Chloe decides to hide him in the garden shed.

Now Chloe’s got to make sure no one finds out her secret. And speaking of secrets, there just might be more to Mr Stink than meets the eye… or the nose.

I think I liked this. I did and then I didn’t then I did again. It had moments of being sweet but then it would go silly again and then weird, then it would circle back to being sweet. At best I think it was a peculiar story, one that certainly left me with a lot of questions. At the core of it Mr Stink is a homeless Mary Poppins. He comes into the lives of the Crumb family and makes it a bit better.

At the start we are introduced to poor Chloe Crumb, living in her sister’s shadow, bullied by her as well as the kids at school, and she is never good enough for her mother. We are also told about Mr Stink, the man who smells so incredibly terrible who sits on a bench all day long with his dog.

I liked the characters Walliams has created. Mrs Crumb has a touch of Hyacinth Bucket in her, while poor suffering Mr Crumb has to put up with her. Chloe’s sister Annabelle is the snobby, bratty little sister who is spoiled and adored by her mother, and seeing her be cruel to Chloe was a bit heartbreaking. There were some jokes around Annabelle I liked; especially the ones about how full Annabelle’s schedule is trying to fit in all her extracurricular activities. I also liked the camaraderie between Chloe and her dad, their small actions of defiance against her mother’s demands.

One character I never fully understood was Mr Stink. Once you get to the core of his story it is quite serious for a children’s book, Walliams goes from silly jokes, to serious moments then back to silly jokes. The seriousness came out of nowhere and I was very surprised. It didn’t feel like it had a place in this light-hearted story, but Walliams throws these moments in there a lot as it goes on, making you think there is going to be a more heartfelt direction, and there is, to his credit, but it never lasts as long and is still surrounded by these obscure and silly jokes.

Another thing that confused me was the changes in Mr Stink’s personality. Sometimes he seems like a normal homeless person, bit eccentric ok, but normal enough. But then other times he seems delusional about what year it is or how money works. It distracted from the story and interrupts your sense of trying to work out who Mr Stink is as a character. He seems to be two people without actually meaning to be, especially after you understand his personal story.

I listened to this as an audio book and Walliams narrated it with the help of Matt Lucus. They both did a great job, the story translated well to audio well and with the pair of them doing a variety of voices it was a fun listen. It had the humour that kids books have with jokes about being dirty and doing gross stuff, but it also had a little bit of heart in it as well. It is sweet but it is weird, and felt like it could have been a bit more than what it was, but that might be asking a bit much of a children’s book that was just meant to be a bit funny with a fun story.

 

You can purchase Mr Stink via the following

Book Depository | QBD

Booktopia | Wordery

Fishpond | A&R Bookworld

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Published: 1st April 2007 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Puffin
Pages: 217
Format: Paperback
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★  – 1 Star

It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.

As I was reading it I thought Greg was a horrible friend and mean, at first I told myself it was just typical young boy “I’m always wronged and my brother is a pain” kind of stuff, a young boy who is a bit self-centred, a bit stupid at times, but not too terrible. But the further I went the worse it became. Greg is a horrible kid, like a proper terrible friend and person.

I have ZERO sympathy for him, I thought this book was about a poor kid who was as it says, wimpy, and who had a hard life trying to fit in or whatever. Turns out he’s a terrible friend, a bully, a liar, and an all round selfish unrepentant bad person.

Through the course of this book Greg does one terrible thing after the other, and even when (and if) he is punished he doesn’t learn.  I cannot believe people love this book. Greg has no conscience, no remorse. He is rude, selfish and a jerk to everyone. He is manipulative and a liar and never once redeems himself even the one time he thinks he does, and all of this is under the guise of it being “funny”. There really isn’t even any humour to fall back on. Is the humour Greg being mean to his supposed best friend? For being relieved some other kid is being bullied and not him (though it was essentially his fault)?

I can’t believe people praise this book. For what? For teaching kids about throwing things at girls with no real consequence? Being mean to your friend because he succeeds when you don’t? This entire book is filled with Greg never once learning his lesson. Maybe, MAYBE if he had been a bully and then learnt some remorse or lesson or learnt SOMETHING then you could make an argument, but there is nothing to be gained from this book except a diary of a kid with no empathy or morals.

I get it, books don’t need morals to make book enjoyable, but this is truly sending the worst message to kids about how to behave and what is acceptable. There are much better books and series out there that are ten times as enjoyable and worthy of being read. I was going to keep reading this series but after finishing it I won’t be rushing out anytime soon.

You can purchase Diary of a Wimpy Kid via the following

Fishpond | Dymocks | BookDepository

 A&R BookWorld | Booktopia

Wordery | Amazon Aust | Amazon

 

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st September 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 256
Format: ebook 
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse? Especially a 13-storey treehouse that has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, a secret underground laboratory, a games room, self-making beds, vines you can swing on, a vegetable vaporiser and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots your favourite flavoured marshmallows into your mouth whenever it discerns you’re hungry.

Two new characters – Andy and Terry – live here, make books together, and have a series of completely nutty adventures. Because: ANYTHING can happen in a 13-storey treehouse.

I have been meaning to read this series since it came out and I finally have gotten around to it. I have to say, tiny bit disappointed. It wasn’t the story I was expecting it to be. Not that I really know what I expected it to be.

We are introduced to Andy and Terry, book creators, friends, and treehouse roommates. We are also introduced to their magnificent 13-storey treehouse. It has all sorts of fun things like a bowling alley, shark tank, laboratories and fun inventions. It has very little text and lots of grand and intricate pictures, especially of the treehouse.

Andy and Terry are the odd couple, Andy wanting to write the book for their publisher and Terry keeps having wacky adventures and causing havoc. Fun and silly, not altogether unenjoyable, but it didn’t feel like a story.

It’s a book that breaks the fourth wall, mocks itself and the creators. It’s silly and clever, and certainly a book I can see kids loving. It’s imaginative and nonsensical, absurd and unexplainable which is always fun, but it was just a bit dull, well not dull but lacking a decent narrative.

I dislike when I’m not a fan of books like this, acknowledging they are not for my age, but still disappointed I couldn’t enjoy them regardless. I suppose if I look at this as the start of any other series it is one where we introduce characters, have a little beginners story before kicking it off in the remaining books. With so many yet to read I feel that may happen but I’m not sure. I will be sorely disappointed if they were all like this, I had hoped to read this series and love it.

You can purchase The 13-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Bookworld | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

Timothy Other: The Boy Who Climbed Marzipan Mountain by L. Sydney Abel

Published: 2nd October 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Solstice Publishing
Pages: 354
Format: Ebook
Genre: Junior Fiction/Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

12 year-old adventurer, the intriguingly named Timothy Other, escapes the Dreams and Hopes Orphanage and travels to the bizarre world of Marzipan Mountain, where he befriends some amazing creatures.

With the help of his friends, Timothy seeks to discover his true origins and returns to the Orphanage. He becomes embroiled in a matter of life and death and faces the evil forces that crave the secret of ‘Golden Life’.

He becomes embroiled in a matter of life and death and faces the evil forces that crave the secret of ‘Golden Life’.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

From a captivating and really sweet beginning this story turns into one that is filled with adventure, puzzles and mysteries, and a lot of other elements that are a combination of magical, bizarre, and delightful.

The narrative is interesting, it is cryptic and elusive, with tiny tit bits dropped throughout that pique your interest. The tone is light and casual, conversational almost like that of a storyteller, but it soon settles into an almost regular narrative style while still maintaining its deliberate style. There are also multiple points of view which allow an understanding of all angles and character intentions, both good and bad, and Abel makes use of these nicely to propel the story along.

There is just enough character depth and explanations to make the situations believable and the events make sense. Timothy goes off on a spontaneous adventure and is quite accepting of the strange and bizarre things that follow, but there are brief explanations that justify what happens which doesn’t make it too farfetched, and the mindset and justifications of a twelve-year-old can account for a lot of things.

Timothy is a decent main character, he is a bit snappish and he likes to tease and bicker seemingly out of the blue, plus he is slightly intolerable, all of which was a little strange but if you remind yourself he is only twelve then it does help explain his behaviour.

Other characters are interesting, unique in their own way, and a mix of quirky, eccentric, and strange with a few stereotypical figures like jolly cooks and maternal housekeepers, but Abel has them in a place that suits them, and makes it a nice environment. There are some darker characters who are not just mean but a tad threatening, but there is restraint in their behaviour and while the actions can be quite dark, Abel doesn’t make it too disturbing.

Plot wise there were a few odd things that were explained strangely or just accepted, even with a magical reasoning. Though this does add to the quirky and mysterious nature of the story, and while it feels like a few things haven’t been answered as much as you’d like, it doesn’t affect the story too much. Where the story shines is towards the end when after all the dropped hints and secrets and puzzles Abel does a great job of bring the story to a close, solving many of the riddles and offering wonderful surprises while still hinting at further adventures.

I wouldn’t call this a Young Adult book; it is more down the Junior Fiction 10-13 year old bracket, though admittedly not unenjoyable for older readers. There is adventure and mystery, with fantasy mixed in but there is also a sweet story as well. There is a slight paranormal element but it is pleasant rather than scary, and coupled with the magical and fantasy components it works really well.

Overall it is nice, complex and delightfully cryptic with secrets to reveal and a fun bunch of characters in a detailed but not over the top adventure story.

 You can purchase Timothy Other via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Amazon UK

Previous Older Entries