CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 24. . . .March 3, 2017
Super Good Skills (Almost...). (Tom Gates).
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2016.
236 pp., trade pbk., $8.99.
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Myra Junyk.
"Oh, I see! Homework excuses are part of your story? I'll be looking forward to reading it, Tom. It sounds VERY interesting."
"It will be, sir," I mumble.
Oh, great. Now I'll have to fit one of my excuses into the story. I'll do my best but it isnít going to be easy....
With only one week to the end of term, Tom is eagerly looking forward to vacation time. However, his Grade 5 teacher, Mr. Fullerman, is gloomy and short-tempered. Not only is he grumpy, but he also assigns Tom a lot of work to make up for undone assignments, work to be completed during Tom's holidays, including a story about homework excuses. Will Tom's holidays be ruined by his unfinished assignments?
Tom's family is going on vacation to the Pine Tree Riviera campsites. The holiday is challenging from the very beginning. Tom's mother packs his bag and forgets to take an extra pair of pants. His obnoxious older sister Delia gets to take her friend Avril along with her on the holiday. Unfair!! When they arrive at the campsite, they mistakenly believe that an old deserted cabin is theirs, and they end up spending a few nights there before they realize that they are in the wrong place. This deserted cabin lacks the basic amenities, including warm water, comfortable rooms and electricity. The constant rain only adds to the misery.
However, all is not lost! The vacation gives Tom a reason to write in his journal about the interesting events of his life. Tom is voluntarily writing (and doodling a bit too). He learns that he enjoys writing. The challenges of the vacation also teach the entire family that vacations are for enjoying each other's company even in the direst of circumstances.
In this eleventh book in the "Tom Gates" series by Liz Pichon, Tom is facing the challenges of everyday life with his usual irrepressible enthusiasm. He believes that he has no outstanding assignments to complete during his holidays and is very surprised when Mr. Fullerman gives him a whole folder full of them to finish. He struggles to keep quiet in class with is head, "STUFFED full of things to talk about." He continues to face memory issues when he forgets that the last day before vacation is No School Uniform Day. However, his quick thinking converts his Physical Education T-shirt into a trendy outfit. Tom has saved the day!
Readers will once again be amused by Tom's commentary about his school and family life. Liz Pichon has tried to make this book more interactive by inviting readers to do their own doodles at various times during the storyline. However, this activity could be problematic if the readers don't actually own the book they are reading! She also includes an interesting quiz which Tom has to complete. Readers who have read the other Tom Gates books will particularly enjoy this quiz because it will remind them of his adventures in previous books. Pichon's novel Super Gook Skills (Almost...) (Tom Gates) could definitely be used to discuss vacations in a classroom setting. Other topics which could be discussed include journaling, family relationships, hobbies, survival skills and flip books.
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.
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