CM . . . . Volume XX Number 33 . . . . April 25, 2014
In Tom Gates: Everything's Amazing (Sort of), readers follow the daily life of Tom Gates, a sarcastic yet optimistic grade four student in England. In this volume (the third of the series), Tom navigates life while wearing a dryer-shrunk sweater, unexpectedly setting off a trend with his fellow students. He also discovers the joys of invisible ink markers which are wonderful for ensuring that his pesky older sister, Delia, doesn't claim his Dude 3 CD as her own. He has a birthday party at Dino Village, accidentally inviting more friends than allowed. He continues to mock his nemesis, Marcus, who often seems to deserve the teasing. Tom also successfully avoids having his band, DOGZOMBIES, perform at the school's disco. Now he can just hope that neither his nor Derek's dad show up as the emergency DJ.
Readers will most likely relate to Tom and his feelings regarding his grumpy (and thieving sister), his slight embarrassment towards his well-meaning grandparents, and also pick up on the attitudes and behaviours that his parents have towards one another's personal projects and interests. However, while Tom's family is not perfectly harmonious, they are a positive portrayal of role models and family involvement in the life of a relatively independent youth. Additionally, while Tom and his friends acknowledge the embarrassing traits of one another's families, they remain accepting of one another, which is quite realistic pre-teen behaviour.
Tom Gates: Everything's Amazing (Sort of) book is similar in format to a journal, with Tom writing in first person. As Tom loves to draw, on almost all the pages, black and white doodles are more predominant than words. This book records everything from Tom's school assignments and flyers, the rules of the game "Champ", and depictions of his sister being grumpy, to his musings regarding Marcus' being picked up by a giant boy-eating bird or locked in a cage with a lion. The physical text is almost as interesting as Tom's pictures as the font changes to better illustrate the stories that Tom tells. The spacing between lines is generous and allows for a great deal of white space on each page, making this a great book for reluctant readers. While girls will also enjoy this story, the pranks and ideas of Tom will be particularly appealing to boys. If readers have enjoyed the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, the "Tom Gates" series will likely be a success with them as well.
As Tom is English, some of the terminology might initially turn off some readers. However, most of the slang is rather intuitive, and the author has provided a glossary at the end of the book. The story, itself, is quite easy to read.
Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.
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