Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon

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Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon

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Buy Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Somewhat of a return to form for Liz Pichon's endless series, with school life and a social problem for our artistic hero combining to make a more than decent plot.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781407143200

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Tom Gates has been told not to worry. Which is not a good thing. He's been told not to worry, but to try his best at the school test – so he does neither. His best friend has told him not to worry about having just left an incriminating portrait of one of his teachers in a library reference book, even though he has to worry about getting it back before anyone else sees it. Especially, that is, when the biggest bully in the year above is also turning his hand to graffiti and has the power to get other people in trouble…

For me this series was in trouble – having read a couple of weaker episodes. Luckily, I think the regular form has been resumed here. There's the usual quirky design (which has given people understandable headaches when trying to read a Kindle edition – it's a scan apparently, rather than a reproduction, so every page has to be zoomed in on to different levels to be read, and flipping pages is nowhere near as easy as with a routine book). Once more Tom has gone all-out with his artwork, peppering every corner of every page with stressed words, little cameo head-shots for characters who are speaking, and so on.

And character is still to the fore – the grumpy sister Tom cannot abide, the embarrassing parents, the different teachers not taking to his eminent artistic skill when it reverts to sleepy doodling in class and nothing else more effectual. Tom's voice comes off the page perfectly well – even when he goes much further than his usual hard-done-by style to give us something dripping with irony that he can't see, everyone in the target audience will understand it all, and lap the story up. And unlike recent volumes the story is better here, pitching him in a quandary that is quite realistic, and featuring old characters from his household and new ones from school.

I won't say this book is a brilliant example of its kind, but it certainly deserves to be a hit. It's warm-hearted, and while not having any kind of moral (other than keep your artwork to yourself and/or on the constructive side) it does feature a recognisable situation. Tom certainly is recognisable – as is the very series, with its full-on doodled covers. This one will become recognised as a very enjoyable read.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey and its sequel are forming themselves into a brilliant series for the same age group – and for those with the same brief visual attention span.

Liz Pichon's Tom Gates Books in Chronological Order

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Buy Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tom Gates 9: Top of the Class (Nearly) by Liz Pichon at Amazon.com.

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