Tom Gates Is Absolutely Fantastic (at Some Things) (#5)
October 16, 2018
Since Tom forgets everything, it’s not surprising that he forgot all about the trip he’s supposed to go on with class 5F. It’s good that his family helps keep him on track (even, once in a while, his grumpy sister, Delia)! Luckily, there are loads of excellent things to do on the trip, like making rafts, eating snacks, and seeing some very weird creatures. That is, as long as Tom doesn’t get stuck in a group with anyone who snores or worse (looking at you, Marcus Meldrew!).
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Like Peirce's Big Nate, Tom is an imminently likable and tremendously typical middle school student. He means well, but still can't remember to pack his own pajamas! He's obsessed with snacks, but in a world where you can buy caramel wafers at the corner Tesco, who wouldn't be? Tom is also very British, with his gym kit, rubbish bins, and even the whole concept of the School Activity Trip! The last time I took middle school students on a trip that stayed even one night away was 1989!
The other characters in the book are slightly one-dimensional; Tom's father is always claiming to want to stay fit but sneaking biscuits, his sister Delia is often mean and snarky to him but ends up saving the day when he forgets to mail in an entry to a t shirt design contest, and his teachers a bit waffly and ineffectual. I do appreciate that even with Marcus, Tom is understanding and not mean. This makes a big difference between this and the US Wimpy Kid series.
The hand-lettered font and copious pictures will appeal to fans of Stick Dog and Charlie Joe Jackson, and many readers will use this book as an arguing point to get a wall of their room painted in black board paint just like Tom, so they can doodle all over a wall. All of Tom's exploits are amusing, humorous, and pure fun to read. I am not overly sad that this series is fourteen books long in the UK!
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