A Lothian book published by Hachette, Australia and NZ, 2020
This is a graphic novel for children which speaks with a loud clear voice about the importance of embracing, nay revelling in, difference. It also celebrates the capacity of children to problem solve and to work co-operatively and creatively to do so.
Such a work could be po-faced, but this glorious fantastical story will delight children and adults with its clever humour and zany evil-fighting plot.
Class 6PU, whose awesome, epic teacher Ms Trigley can be counted on to find a positive in each child’s unusual characteristics, is faced with the megalomaniacal ex-Vice Principal Hoovesly and must find a way to defeat his plot to take over the world via mind controlling head-lice.
In an adventure that takes them under the secret tunnels beneath their school, Craglands South Primary, this bunch of kids show courage, perseverance, acceptance of one another, teamwork and an almost biblical capacity to endure yucky stuff like rivers of poo, terrible stinks from farts and the tenacity of their deranged foe.
Mick Elliott writes cannily well in the voice of the primary child and his work will especially appeal to young boys, who might find less reason to read in mainstream novels. Indeed, it is his aim to entice these reluctant readers into the magical world of the written and (liberally) illustrated page.
The clever use of variant fonts to indicate the utterances of the child in the author’s voice persona of Padman O’Donnell, best friend of Squidge, will be clearly understood by the kids who read these books. It will also amuse adults, as it did me, who will hear their children and grandchildren speaking these ‘marked’ words, their superlative tone ringing rib-ticklingly true.
It’s a mark of the best children’s book that it appeals to grown-ups – no proof is needed, but look to the classics for this. Mick Elliott hits this criterion spot on and also delivers those other essentials: victory for the kids, the capacity for heroism and for celebratory success.
This is the third of the Squidge Dibley series – I’ll go in search of the first two and be eager for further adventures when the dust settles from this one. There could not be a better time for laugh aloud reading experiences and the salutary message to keep going, despite all the challenges life hurls at you.