________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002

cover Big George.

Eric Pringle. Illustrated by Colin Paine. Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2001.
157 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-712-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-713-2 (cl.).

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Luella Sumner.

*** /4


They were standing on the millstone like warts on legs, waiting for her. Silas Sludge and Bartholomew Bog were as alike as two peas from a very nasty pod. They were short and leery and the skin of their faces was like wrinkled paper, furrowed into scowls and frowns and grimaces. Both had pointy noses and pointy feet and pointy hands. The only difference between them, the only way you could tell them apart, was this. Silas Sludge had crafty, slidy, slippy, gray eyes that were hard as stones and mean as mousetraps. Bartholomew Bog had rolling, yellow, jaundiced eyes that were never still. He looked like a fever in motion and he was as prim and sniffy as a pedigree cat. They were bad news, as vile and pitiless a pair of characters as you could ever dread to meet on a dark night, and they looked even worse perched on a millstone pointing their sharp fingers at you at six o'clock on a spring morning.

The impression gained from this excerpt reflects the tone of this book -- mean, nasty, awful people and unpleasant and dangerous situations, all described with a light comic touch, so that readers do not know whether to shudder in disgust or laugh out loud. Probably they will do both while following the adventures of Big George, the large (taller than a tree) alien who crashlanded in England back in the year 1103. Tilly, the miller's daughter, finds George and befriends him.

     The Evil Baron Lousewort, who has a nasty son to whom Milly has been promised in marriage, tries to kill George using his two nasty cronies, Silas and Bartholomew. They feed poison to poor George who then becomes violently ill with cramps. In the hilarious conclusion, George relieves his abdominal distress by forcefully expelling a huge amount of gas which knocks every bad guy out for the count. Milly is able to find happiness with her true love, and the villagers go back to their usual pursuits, free from the tyranny of the evil Baron. George, whose alien body is geared to a sleep of at least 900 years, falls asleep in the forest. And if you add 900 years to 1103, you will know that Big George is going to wake up soon.

     The descriptions of the many characters convey such nastiness that it must have been difficult for the illustrator to know how to depict them. Colin Paine solves this problem by concentrating more on the comical aspects of the characters in his pen and ink drawings.

     Eric Pringle has done many dramatizations for television and radio, including Doctor Who and several Thomas Hardy novels. This is his first children's book. Eric lives in England. Colin Paine, the illustrator of The Conjuror's Cookbook (Bloomsbury), also lives in England.


Luella Sumner is a retired librarian who lives in Red Rock, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364