Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge
|Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Ultimately a pleasant series-opener, this young read does thrust the gross-out detail at you too much for you to like one of the key players for a very long time.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: April 2018|
|Publisher: OUP Oxford|
|External links: Author's website|
Stan is a space freak. He's nuts about it – to the extent of having too many embarrassing experiences in his rocket undies, but that's by the by. He's trying to win a telescope, and diligently do all his science-based homework, but one thing stands in the way. Space. Or, more precisely, the space he has to share with his incredibly snotty, annoying, dumb, messy little brother Fred. Stan has a project on the go, which is to get three helpers and enter a science fair, but Fred has also found something to concentrate his erratic mind on – the local museum is thinking of ditching its T-rex fossil for a huge light-up Earth in a new eco gallery. Fred almost thinks of Rory the T-rex as a pet, and is certainly more friendly to it than he is to Stan (when he's not colouring the poor thing's legs in with crayon, that is). Can Stan get something to take to school without bogies all over it, and will Fred get his way where Rory is concerned?
This enters the already very crowded shelves of the young comedy of embarrassments category. As such it has to have a special quirk or shtick where the presentation is concerned. A near-to-handwriting font, which it has, wouldn't be enough, mind. But I found what we did get, in a scale for Stan's mood on every right hand page here (to be measured, suitably, between black hole of doom and over the moon via need cake) to be a bit of a waste of time. For one thing, the book was motoring along perfectly fine without it, and there was never really any pause for you to see where he was. Elsewhere, our scientific lad presents us with suitable text book illustrations, bar graphs, pie charts and Venn diagrams. That side of thing is fine. He also presents us with almost box-outs of tips and advice on what to pack with you to deal with a young brother from hell.
Which brings us on to the other benefits of the character. He's a genius when it comes to science, and indeed a little wise before his years (there are several instances of lovely and quotable phrases, such as the following, when he's told that it's good to share – no it isn't. That's just a myth sold to you by parents), but he is also quite naive. Which makes the first-romance-if-only-he-can-see-it side of the story an even bigger pleasure.
What wasn't a pleasure, however, needs no saying. It's Fred. The problem is, the book thinks it's perfectly fine for him to be full of sneezes and farts, and totally empty of etiquette, knowledge of personal space, and so on. That's all well and good for a book with a very young audience, but here it's a little awkward. He's too much. The contrast between the two brothers in their shared bedroom is too great, the parents are loathesomely stuck on the fence between the two, and the unfairness of it all is drummed into us on every page. The book has a bit of Reithian spirit about it, where it's clearly better off being smart, but the alternative to smart is almost certifiable.
That said, this is a pleasant enough read. You'll enjoy it a lot more when Fred isn't around, which isn't often, but there is just about enough in the science project, just enough of a cameo from Stan's friend, and a pleasing amount of the girl interest, to make up for the lowest-common-denominator elements. And ultimately, just in time, the author ramps up that Reithian, smart-is-good spirit, and delivers an ending to almost justify all that has gone before, and one that even made me smile – quite a lot. This book wouldn't have got four stars if it had carried on as it began, mind, but as it is I'd say I'm almost hoping for more of this series in the future – although chances are it could go too base for my personal tastes. The very young could grub around in these books to their hearts' content, however – when not grubbing around for snot, that is.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
More fraternal quibbles can be had with I Swapped My Brother On The Internet by Jo Simmons.
You can read more book reviews or buy Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge at Amazon.com.
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