The Clumsies Make A Mess of the Big Show by Sorrel Anderson
|The Clumsies Make A Mess of the Big Show by Sorrel Anderson|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Zany, surreal, off the wall humour with two talking mice. And a talking lift. And a talking post-delivering trolley...|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 112||Date: January 2011|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
This is the third book about The Clumsies, two small mice who live in Howard Armitage's office, and manage, whatever the situation, to make a mess! A big show is being put on at work, and Howard's boss wants Howard to sing. The Clumsies decide to intervene, in order to help out Howard, and chaos ensues...
I did think, initially, that it might have been helpful for me to have read the first two Clumsies books so that I'd better understand what was going on. However, as the story continued I decided that they were both probably just as bizarre as this one and would be unlikely to provide me with any satisfactory answers to questions such as why is there a small elephant in Howard's office who joins in the Clumsies escapades from time to time? (Is he a toy? Or a real elephant? Where did he come from and what is he doing there?) Or why is the post trolley seemingly possessed, running amok in the corridors of Howard's offices? Surreal humour is just how these books function, and once you've accepted that fairies on top of the Christmas tree talk, as do the mice, as does the lift, and the aforementioned trolley, then you can just let yourself get sucked into the story!
The format of the book is unusual. I felt that the layout and graphics were disruptive sometimes, with lots of different fonts used frequently, parts of the text inserted into the pictures, as well as words misaligned for emphasis, or sliding down the page diagonally. Confident readers should cope with this, but I suspect any who are a little hesitant might struggle. It does give it the flavour of a comic book, which might appeal to children who don't generally enjoy storybooks.
In the illustrations I thought the mice were cute and funny, but I wasn't sure the black and white images always worked as well as they might have. Perhaps if they'd been in colour they would have more of an impact. The real life photos used for images throughout lose their effect in being grey scale - tinsel and glitter need colour! However, there's plenty happening through the book and the images and changes in font do help to break up the text into smaller reading portions.
I really wanted to like this book, and there were a few moments when I almost chuckled. I'm not averse to surreal writing - I really love Douglas Adams for example, and some of his talking appliances (doors, drinks machines, mattresses...) make me laugh out loud. Yet I felt that something didn't quite gel with this story. I felt there was too much zaniness at the expense of a strong plot. A few times I flicked back a couple of pages thinking I'd missed something as the narrative didn't seem to flow properly. Perhaps the writer is hoping that the kids reading this will just enjoy the anarchy and mess without questioning things too much. I avoided adding this to the bedtime story pile as I think I'd find it too frustrating to read aloud. It's certainly an interesting and unusual read, and I'm sure many children will just enjoy the silliness for what it is, but personally it's one that I'd rather borrow than keep.
Thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
Lovers of surreal writing might enjoy Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell or One Beastly Beast by Garth Nix. Those who prefer their talking mice a little more genteel should turn their attention immediately to the sweet Tumtum and Nutmeg stories by Emily Bearn.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Clumsies Make A Mess of the Big Show by Sorrel Anderson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Clumsies Make A Mess of the Big Show by Sorrel Anderson at Amazon.com.
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Josh Harte said:
My kids love this book and quote from it a lot. It isn’t only “silly” because it has a warm hearted kind of a humour to it and when the words are read out they’re more like music or verse.