Saturday, 5 May 2018


The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, by Liz Pichon

This is the first book in this great series written by Liz Pichon disguised as twelve year-old Tom Gates .  He’s really good at some things, like Art and English (sometimes) – and thinking up very clever excuses to give to his teacher as to why he hasn’t done his homework.  He can’t say the dog ate it because they haven’t got a dog, so he blames his older sister Delia (‘she spilt her coffee on it!);  in fact he blames Delia for a lot of things (I’m late because Delia hogged the bathroom!’ when in fact it’s Tom who locked himself in there to spite her), and does his level best to get her into trouble with his parents – ‘Mum, Delia’s got a boyfriend.  She had him here in the house!’ –He also hides Delia’s sunglasses regularly.  Yep, Tom is a bit of a stirrer, but he is not all bad.
            He’s best mates with his neighbour Derek;  they are both practising to be in a band when they grow up – they’re a bit rubbish yet but hey, they’re only twelve.  When they get more ‘professional’ they will call themselves the DogZombies.  Is that a cool name or what?  And he has a Megacrush on Amy Porter, who now sits next to him at the start of the new term (WOW!  Could he be any luckier??)  Yes, because Mr Fullerman has put him in the front row ‘to keep an eye on him’ (NO, NO, send me to the back again where you can’t see me!) and on the other side is none other than Measly Marcus  Meldrew, the most irritating kid in the school.  He’s totally sneaky and uncool and should be sitting somewhere far, far away.  Like Australia.
            Tom and Derek are huge fans of DUDE3, the best band on the planet, and they can hardly believe that these mighty stars will be performing in their town soon. Book One deals with their attempts to get to the concert – that turn out to be touch and go, because Derek’s new dog (called Rooster) eats the tickets!  (Truly.)
  Coupled with her great illustrations and Tom’s truly imaginative solutions to all of his everyday problems, Liz Pichon has created a great character that all kids can identify with – and all parents, too!  FIVE STARS

Brilliant, by Roddy Doyle

            When the great Roddy Doyle wrote this story for children poor old Ireland was in the middle of a very low time in its economy – and its spirits;  so many people were losing their jobs – and their houses – because they had no money to pay off their bank loans;  thousands of people were in such a bad way financially that they started to lose hope:  the old Black Dog of Depression descended on Ireland, and Dublin in particular where the story opens, like an angry, evil cloud.
            Raymond and Gloria’s Uncle Ben has had to shut his business down;  at one stage he was so busy he didn’t have time to answer his phone.  Now the phone doesn’t ring at all, and he has had to surrender his house to the bank because he can no longer pay the mortgage.  He is living with Raymond  and Gloria’s Mam and Dad and is very sad indeed.  Their Granny (who has her own little flat by the side of their house but never seems to stay there) says the Black Dog has him;  in fact the Black Dog has Dublin’s funny bone, she says, and no-one will be feeling better until Dublin’s funny bone is given back.
            Raymond and Gloria hear about this because they are hiding under the kitchen table listening to the adults talk about these adult things because they think the kids are in bed;  it has been a game they both enjoy, sneaking under the table without being seen.  They are horrified to learn of the Black Dog of Depression but because they love their Uncle Ben and want him to be happy again, they decide to search for the Black Dog and wrench back the funny bone – by force if need be!
            And what adventures they have while they pursue that evil animal, and what a surprise to find that other children, hundreds of them, are searching for him too, because they want their Mams and Dads, sisters and brothers to smile again.    Animals they meet on the search suddenly start talking, directing them where to go, until finally after a frightening showdown the horrid Black Dog is vanquished and forced to give up Dublin’s funny bone, for children are immune to his power, especially if they chant one word – ‘BRILLIANT’, and believe in it every time they say it.  ‘BRILLIANT’.
            This is a lovely story and sure proof that Ireland’s funny bone is working perfectly.  Roddy Doyle is just BRILLIANT.  FIVE STARS

Wildwitch Book One

Wildfire, by Lene Kaaberbol

Clara lives with her Mum in a flat in an apartment building.  Her Mum is a very clever free-lance journalist, and her Dad doesn’t feature much in her life – he’s a great Dad to have holidays with but she doesn’t think about him very often;  her Mum is her parent of choice.
            Her best friend is her schoolmate Oscar, and they both have to endure the predictable teasing from the other kids, usually about them snogging (which they don’t!)  But Clara and Oscar don’t care;  their friendship is too strong to be affected by such silliness.
            Life is as normal as Clara goes down to collect her bike so that she can cycle to school – until she meets a huge black cat the size of a dog on the basement stairs.  She can’t be dreaming because the cat sits on her and won’t let her go;  it smells of the sea and scratches her between her eyes.  ‘You’re mine’, it says and refuses to move until Clara manages at last to push it away and rush back to her Mum – who reacts to Clara’s account by ringing Aunt Isa, the sister she hasn’t spoken to for years, and blaming the appearance of the huge cat on her.
            And Clara’s Mum is right!  For Aunt Isa is a Wildwitch, a woman with special powers,  charged with protecting the earth and its creatures and she is the only person who can heal Clara’s ensuing illness, which is an indication that Clara has inherited the same powers, and needs to know how to manage and control them.  The huge cat has chosen her as its companion, telling her often (whether she wants to hear it or not!) ‘You’re mine.  You’re mine.’
            And she has an enemy, too, without even looking for one – a huge winged rogue witch called Chimera who is bent on enslaving Clara and the powers she doesn’t even know how to use yet. 
            What happened to her nice normal life with Mum?  She has to stay with Aunt Isa while she is an apprentice Wildwitch, learning how to protect herself and the environment:  ‘Remember, if you take from the earth, you must always give back,’ is Aunt Isa’s favourite saying.  Easier said than done, especially with an enemy like Chimera. 
            Clara’s adventures are non-stop, written with lots of humour, and with a cast of great characters in each book.  In Book two, Oblivion, we meet the Nothing, a failed experiment at cloning herself of Chimera.  The Nothing is so appealing (even though she farts and poos like a champion because she has the body of a bird – and the digestive system!) that Clara is able to rescue her and take her home to Aunt Isa – and a good thing too, I say!  Chimera is defeated and disappears, but everyone knows she will return eventually;  she is so full of hatred for Clara she won’t be able to stay away!
            I can’t wait to read Book three, ‘Life Stealer’.  This is a great series for ages 10+ - and me!  (And I’m not telling you how old I am!)   

No comments:

Post a Comment