________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 34. . . .May 2, 2014


Genius Ideas (Mostly). (Tom Gates).

L. Pichon.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014.
307 pp., trade pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-3303-6.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Myra Junyk.

**** /4




Marcus has only gone and put his hand      and interrupted Mr. Fullerman, who’s not very happy.

He tells Mr. Fullerman,

“Sir! Tom Gates is drawing Sir,”

Luckily for me Mr. Fullerman doesn’t tell me off. I just have to put down my pen and LISTEN which I do (for a while).


Tom Gates lives a fascinating life which he describes for readers in his diary and doodle book. His family is a constant source of frustration. His obnoxious older sister, Delia, argues with him, and his father begins an embarrassing new exercise program. As a result, Tom is late for school – and decides to write his own note. Tom’s school life is full of activity with classroom assignments, conflicts with other classmates and teachers, preparations for sports day, auditions for the talent show, and a new buddy system. Tom’s amusing descriptions and observations about life are full of “genius ideas.”

internal art     Tom is a very sympathetic character and a great observer of life. His commentaries and drawings about his family and his classroom companions are both hilarious and insightful. Readers will definitely be able to relate to his complicated life as a member of the Grade 5 class! Tom is not an enthusiastic participant in sports because of his awkwardness and lack of athletic prowess. He may be clumsy, but he loves his doodle book and his family despite their quirks. He also tries to be a good friend and buddy to younger students.

     The book is full of very interesting structural devices. At the bottom right-hand corner of every page is a bug drawing. If readers use the book as a “flip book”, they can see the bug dance. Although this is not a traditional graphic novel, the book contains several very interesting graphic elements. Tom writes a diary-like book filled with word art, large and small drawings, and classroom assignments. Tom uses English slang expressions in his text which may be confusing for some readers. In order to compensate for this, Tom provides a glossary of terms at the end of the novel as well as instructions on “How to make a paper banger.”

     This well-written novel will inevitably draw comparisons with the ever popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series because of its discussion of various “embarrassing” family members and life in Grade 5. However, it also gives readers an interesting perspective on the writing process. Tom’s writing assignments may be hilarious, but they do show readers that everyone’s stories are worth telling! It also follows in the tradition of other books describing the struggles of young writers, books such as Philip Pulman’s I Was a Rat!, Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, and Gordon Korman’s No More Dead Dogs.

     This is another book in the “Tom Gates” series which began with The Brilliant World of Tom Gates. Liz Pichon has once again created a lively novel filled with interesting word art. Tom’s doodles provide great visual distraction as well as lots of additional information for readers about characters and events in this novel. They will also give adults insight into the learning style of kinesthetic learners who love to doodle while they are learning. Young male readers will definitely enjoy this amusing view of life full of the “Genius Ideas” of Tom Gates!

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk is a literacy advocate and author in Toronto, ON.

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

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