Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children by Conn Iggulden and Lizzy Duncan
|Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children by Conn Iggulden and Lizzy Duncan|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A lavish chest of three stories for the under-tens, featuring a new race of small, hidden people. The wacky humour could have been upped a little, but this is still a great gift book, for any season.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: August 2009|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Now, before I start, you must not confuse Tollins with fairies. Tollins are small humanoid creatures that flit around our gardens without being seen by humans, but they are definitely not fairies. They have secretive places to live, and have an idyllic life of dancing, eating, singing and partying, but they are not fairies. They wipe their noses with fairies. Literally.
Our main focus of interest is Sparkler, who will become a very appropriately named Tollin, for many reasons. When the humans get busy in the town above his home, they build a firework factory, and then stumble upon Tollins as fancy ingredients. Cue a knockabout adventure for Sparkler and too many friends of his, until he just manages to save the day, and prevent slavery for the Tollins as regular ingredients of bangers.
This however is not without repercussions, and soon there's a second story, featuring dashing prison escapes, subversive medical experiments, cruel guards, and gout. And a third story to fill the book out, with much more daring, danger and nastiness from Dorset. (Where else?)
Three stories, of equal length, presented in a sterling way with all attention to detail. The artwork is great, from small cameos of passing Tollins, to witty painted pages (I love the cat who's swallowed a Tollin) to huge double spreads. Sure, they could at times be less rough and ready, and have more detail, and sometimes they seem wrongly placed, and give the story away before the words get the chance to, but they're with the lavish binding and great production to make this a book to cherish.
And then of course there's the writing. The stories combine as one long tale, spread over the seasons, and follow on from each other in such a way that we get a nice moral or three, about the power of reading, the benefits of being determined in finding things out for yourself, and so on. There's something of the Dangerous Book for Boys-style tinges with regards to the scientific experiments our hero engages in, but this is a book for either gender. It's certainly not all about morals, either, as there's escapist adventure, romance, daft executioners and a lot more.
It may well be a surprise to have the author of historical fiction branching out so well into young readers' titles. (I guess this is best for the 6-to-9s.) I think he has done a sterling job. He doesn't patronise with the easiest of easy vocabularies, and offers up several great jokes. There might have been more occasions for witty and wacky humour - and it sounds churlish to say that with chapter titles like How amputation can be a blessing and so on - but on the whole this is a title that will last, as a result of this and more - and I hope for more from the world of the Tollins sometime soon.
This is a book that combines the funny drollery of invented characters such as David Melling's Goblins books with the visual approach of something akin to Ricky Gervais's Flanimals. Proof that it is possible to combine two winning formulae with a great result. An experiment even Sparkler himself would approve of.
I must thank Harper Tollins (sorry, Collins) and their kind people for our review copy.
You can save the Tollins at their very own website.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children by Conn Iggulden and Lizzy Duncan at Amazon.com.
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