A new Paul Jennings, and an offering from Richard Roxburgh. Just a few more contributions to the fabulous range of middle-grade fiction which has come out in 2016. If you didn’t catch my reviews of Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher and Charlie and the War Against the Grannies by Alan Brough, find them here.
The Unforgettable What’s His Name – Paul Jennings, Craig Smith (illustrator)
26th October 2016, Allen & Unwin
224 pages, 4/5 stars
I have loved Paul Jennings’ weird and wacky stories for as long as I can remember. I was thrilled to re-discover him as an adult, with The Unforgettable What’s His Name. It’s the story of a boy who doesn’t really fit into his life. He trudges along, just blending in. And then one day he discovers that he really can blend into his environment – he can become a tree, a postbox, a chameleon. But it isn’t that great a power; he isn’t sure how to control it!!! But slowly, the narrator (What’s His Name) begins to come to terms with his power, and the world around him. That is, after a crazy, crazy adventure, involving a motorbike gang, a monkey enclosure at the zoo, and a runaway dog.
The accompanying illustrations by Craig Smith are fantastic, making the book even more fantastic. It is beautifully presented, and really funny and sweet. A perfect middle-grade read (9-12). Buy a copy for yourself here.
Artie and the Grime Wave – Richard Roxburgh
12th October 2016, Allen & Unwin
240 pages, 2.5/5 stars
There have been some truly excellent middle grade reads from Australian celebrities this year – see my reviews of Isla Fisher’s Marge in Charge and Alan Brough’s Charlie and the War Against the Grannies here. Unfortunately, Richard Roxburgh’s contribution didn’t live up to my expectations, especially seeing as he is so very talented across the board.
The story does raise some important issues for children, including single-parent families, and mentally ill parents. The plot itself, though, is incredibly convoluted, and I found myself lost regularly. There is just too much going on! I was also a bit offended by the character of AuntyBoy; I don’t know what about her exactly irritated me, but the whole caricature just felt off.
I did really enjoy the weapons which were featured though. There was a Super-Snotter, a Fartex 120Y, and a Prickle-ator – and they were all ridiculous and fun! Almost at the same level as those in Charlie and the War Against the Grannies!
The illustrations are a teeny bit creepy – fans of Tim Burton will appreciate them a lot more than I did! But I was impressed that Roxburgh did them himself! Just another talent he possesses in a very long list. If you want to check out the book, you can buy your copy here.