Tom Gates: A Tiny Bit Lucky by Liz Pichon

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Tom Gates: A Tiny Bit Lucky by Liz Pichon

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: What counts as a major misstep in this series, as the whole covers amusing ground, but with no relevance or consequence. Tom Gates books have never been this disposable before…
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781407138879

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It's enrichment week at Tom Gates' school, which means lessons in unlikely subjects, such as pizza cooking and film-making. It's been badly tagged onto the school's inspection period, too, so the staff – who have never been appreciative enough of Tom's ways at doodling and ways into and out of scrapes – are even more on tenterhooks. It's also enrichment week at home, with Tom's parents deciding he needs less time watching TV and more time witnessing dad get all excited about making a kite. Tom's enrichment ideas for himself involve doodling more, rocking with his school band, and eating more caramel wafers, but he's not going to get his own way – the only one who will is the new neighbourhood cat from next door…

Before now the Tom Gates titles have been a bit tongue-in-cheek, with adjectives such as 'brilliant', 'excellent', 'genius'… Here, at the eighth time of asking (that is if you include the World Book Day special), it's scaled back – the tiny bit of luck being sarcastically low, for Liz Pichon definitely has had a greater share of luck than some. Her series has been exceedingly successful and shows no sign of stopping. They all immediately show signs of being in the same series – the same kinetically doodled, garish covers, the same kinetic and at times garish pages, with hundreds of pieces of design – faces to assign dialogue to, wacky fonts and other lively ways to move the reader's eyes from one margin to the other.

This time around, however, we definitely hit a wall of diminishing returns. If my description of the plot sounds a little higgledy-piggledy that's because it is. The whole thing is far too loose. Kites come and go, like the cat, like the band, like the wafers, like the school inspectors… The only thing that stays is a story-within-a-story of a slightly Mr Gum styled book read out in class, which seems to take far too much attention away from a proper ending to the novel. It's really surprising to see both stories end the way they do, and at the same time – meaning disappointments just being shrugged off, and there being no real narrative thrust given to anything. At times I wasn't sure we hadn't had eight school days in a row until I managed to realise we were actually having a weekend at last.

What there should have been was much more concision – a greater use of comedic callbacks. There was one at the end, which again left us with no proper conclusion, but just having things like pointy shoes drift back in with no consequence and no resulting problem for a missing pile of cheese or multi-coloured food faux pas or final relevance to the inclusion of string… It's all too slapdash.

The benefit of callbacks is to point out how clever the humour can be, which is important in a book like this. They don't have to be funny, however – what they do do is ground the whole plot into a coherent piece. And this book isn't one. When you're aware of how TV sitcoms work – the best barely changing the world for any characters during the course of an entire episode, so they can be watched in any order with no progression whatsoever – you don't want it mirrored in a much-loved book series. This eighth edition covers a couple of weeks, and to repeat, just fades away into a wait for the next. The comedy is here, in small doses, as is the fabulous way of padding the page with crafty artwork and witty emblems and designs, but the lack of a firm grip on such an important thing as plot means it is utterly disposable. Perhaps it's a misprint – it may as well be called A Tiny Bit Plotty.

The series started way back here. Princess DisGrace: First Term at Tall Towers by Lou Kuenzler shows how the other half lives when they're at school.

Liz Pichon's Tom Gates Books in Chronological Order

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Buy Tom Gates: A Tiny Bit Lucky by Liz Pichon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tom Gates: A Tiny Bit Lucky by Liz Pichon at


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