________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 12. . . .November 25, 2016


Alex vs. the Four-Headed Gargantuan.

Laura Peetoom. Illustrated by Kevin Frank.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2015.
106 pp., pbk. & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0957-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0959-0 (epub).

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Deborah Mervold and Kenzi Gerein.

**** /4



There was a posse of teenagers in the driveway of 149 Abel Avenue, and they were all staring at Alex.

Alex knew a few good teenagers. At the Y for example, there was Ryan, who helped out with the open-gym basketball practices on Sunday afternoon. He was great, and he was a teenager. And Alex`s usual babysitter was a teenager. But she was a girl.

Teenager like this – boys, in groups well, Alex had some bad experiences with them: in the schoolyard, at the ice rink, and in the Y pool. Mocking and teasing. Shoving and splashing. And that was when Alex was with his friends. Who know what these guys might do to a small guy like Alex, all alone? Alex didn`t know, and knowing made him nervous.


Alex is 10. His allowance is minimal. When an ad comes for a paperboy being needed in his area, Alex’s parents encourage him to take the job. He has 21 papers to deliver, with 18 of his clients paying directly and three from whom he must collect from every week. Alex is enjoying his new position and having money to spend. Although most of the money goes directly into his new bank account, Alex is allowed to keep his tips and any money that he collects directly. He likes the idea of his money growing, and he knows that whatever he buys must be worth as much as the joy he gets from seeing his money grows.

     One day, Alex sees four teenagers outside one of the houses from which he collects money directly. He is immediately worried that they have been watching him, and he thinks that they will steal his money or demand protection money. One day Alex overhears the biggest of the four teens interacting with the teen’s mother, and she calls her son by an endearing name. Alex knows he has a secret he can potentially use, but everything still looks threatening to him.

     After an ice storm, Alex is running from the group when he slips on the ice and is nearly hit by a car. The boys immediately come to his rescue and help him pick up the papers. However, Alex had an envelope with $50 in it, and the envelope is now missing from his bag. Alex is convinced one of the teens has stolen his money. To his surprise, he finds everything is not as he thought. The boys are not his enemies and are sympathetic because they, too, once had his paper route.

     The story is a good lesson in the dangers of making assumptions. Alex learns that courage and kindness go together. He has helped different people along his route, and it is paying dividends in both his finances and how he feels. The story is simple and to the point. The minimal information about the characters is important to the movement of the plot. The book is divided into 12 chapters plus an epilogue.

     Along with the plot in prose form, there is an additional story told as a graphic novel. This is the story told via Alex’s alter ego, and it somewhat parallels his real life. He is a paperboy, one with super powers, and he is saving the world, but he encounters a four-headed monster that he must destroy to get to the castle. The graphic novel is interspersed within the story and would appeal to readers in this age group. It provides humour and an interesting variation on the story.

     Alex vs. The Four-Headed Gargantuan would be enjoyed by readers of realistic fiction that deals with the theme of friendship. Although the characters are male, the book would be enjoyed by both girls and boys. This book would be an excellent choice for school, public and personal libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, now doing faculty training and program development at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. She has extensive experience as an English teacher and teacher-librarian. Kenzi Gerein is a Grade 3 student in Saskatoon, SK.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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