Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bogbrush the Barbarian by Howard Whitehouse, illustrated by Bill Slavin

I'm a very happy fan of Whitehouse's Strictest School in the World and series. It's an odd one to booktalk - no matter how much I extol its virtues (a girl who wants to fly but is squared of heights! A boy who is indestructible! Pterodactyls!) children back away giving me odd looks. But regularly, about once a month, I will see a kid meandering about, clutching a copy under his arm. "I love that book!" says I. Kid then gives me terrified look and backs away. Obviously, loving Emmaline and Rubberbones is a guilty secret.

Anyways, I am sorry to say I was rather disappointed in this story. Bogbrush the Barbarian is encouraged by his village to go forth on a quest - mainly to get him out of the way, since he's extremely large, powerful, and stupid. After a trip to the Temple of the Great Belch, to confirm his status as a barbarian warrior, Bogbrush sets out to travel on a great quest.

The text is sprinkled with tongue-in-cheek educational lessons; "word of the day," "saying of the day" and more. Slavin's line drawings are humorous and fit into the quirky humor and over the top adventures of Bogbrush.

I was personally disappointed, because I had hoped for more of the delightfully quirky Victorian adventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones. They're rather in the flavor of Reeves' Larklight, another series of which I am a fan. Bogbrush was more in the gross humor category and it just didn't grab me. The plot felt a bit weak and cobbled together as well. I'm doubtful about audience for this - the smaller print, large sections of text, and some of the vocabulary make it more appropriate for older audiences, but by the time most kids will be comfortable reading this, they will probably have outgrown the potty humor.

Verdict: Not essential. If you have really strident fans of Layton's Mammoth Academy they might enjoy it, but it will probably be too difficult for Captain Underpants and Time Warp Trio readers.

ISBN: 9781553377016; Published September 2010 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

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