The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain
|The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Simply putting an energetic drama into the world of an already established classic does not a modern classic make, as these pages prove.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: March 2017|
|Publisher: OUP Oxford|
|External links: Author's website|
Poop-poop! Yes, that must be the most inaccurate representation of the noise a toad makes. But of course, it's not just a toad, but Mr Toad – Toad of Toad Hall. The irrepressible juvenile driver, thrusting himself into the Edwardian era, and scaring the bejaysus out of his friends, Moley, Ratty and Badger. But he's long gone. Toad Hall is a shell – a ruin compared to what it once was. Stumbling into its underground regions (don't ask) are Mo, Ratty and TJ – Toad Junior, in full – and what they're about to discover will shock them. But that's nothing compared to the shock that what they find will face, for Mr Toad will be revived after a century of being frozen, and not like what he finds one bit. Apart, that is, from the modern cars…
Now I came to this with fully open eyes. I didn't mind the idea of a next generation of dramas in this world – as much as I know the original is a classic, it wasn't one I exactly turned to often as a nipper, and I have never held it as untouchable. Before now… The new characters are reasonably good – Mo the cautious but more brainy one, TJ the gung-ho, spunky female one, Ratty, er… the one with the rope and torch ever-handy. Badger, too, is a female one, for balance, but as we are soon to see more of a disapproving adult one. They are supposed to be the descendants of their originals, but Mr Toad – why, he's just Mr Toad.
But this isn't Mr Toad. It's a brash, modern variant – a character who so loved the feel of the air rushing past his windshield has gained go-faster stripes, and not much else. And to talk of how he looks, the book is delicious on the eye – the artwork is modern, definitely, but classic, with drawings that are mostly black and white and green, with just the tiniest smidgens of red where relevant. But the writing is just modern, and lively. The newcomer wouldn't possibly know how much her or his parents held Toad in high esteem, nor get any inkling of the qualities of what came before. That might be the point – that the young reader can turn to this and have an animal-based absurdity where the titular race is undergone to save Toad Hall – but it shouldn't be. Surely there should be some of the original spirit, the classic class, and the quaint action?
There were nice touches here and there, and the brio of the writing really is to the fore. The book is, on the whole, a lot of setting-up followed by a second chunk where the action is, but you don't feel that reading it, and the fuller, exposition-free sequels that are already on their way will be even better for it. But when the only beats that honoured the original were the repeated Poop-poop!s and naming the laptop search engine Windipedia, I for one cried foul. There is so little of the original here the author – who clearly has no small talent – would be just as well served by creating his own new world. That would make this perfectly acceptable, but to borrow from a classic to make this sugar rush of a book for the under-tens is more than a bit of a cheat. Poop, and indeed, poop.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The author has been in this world before, with a version of the original for the very young.
You can read more book reviews or buy The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain at Amazon.com.
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