Monday, 18 October 2010

Mr Gum and the Cherry Tree

Mr Gum and the Cherry Tree by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman (Egmont)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-4052-5218-8
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

It is Spring and ‘the ground just lay there and let everyone walk all over it’. In the town of Lamonic Bibber, Old Granny spoke between sips of sherry. ‘The Old Ways are back from before the days of Science’.

This is the unconventional and whacky things you’ll read in the books of Mr Gum. The characters are way out there and the happenings are unbelievable. There are liberties taken with the language that any linguist would cringe at. The titles appear to be the closest to relevance in the whole story in some disconnected way.

But, there is always a but. The pages are filled with entertainment and ridiculous comedy. Laughter is the intention of the author and he succeeds in giving the reader a belly laugh often. The word play is clever and imaginative and the incredible characters whose likeness is presented by the illustrator are perfectly matched to the images formed in the reader’s mind – crazy and unorthodox.

Mr Gum is evil and tries with mischievous and underhanded planning to create self-serving situations for himself at the expense of the simple population of Lamonic Bibber. Nine year old Polly seems the only one with a brain, yet it is revealed that each resident of the town has some special gift in one way or another.

Old Granny is a sort of matriarch who the townsfolk follow ‘into adventures unknown’ which always result in Mr Gum being the centre of it all somewhere in the background.

Is the cherry tree really Runtus, the King of the Woodland Spirits that the townsfolk are worshipping, or something more sinister?  Polly tries to open their eyes to the truth but what sort of power has been cast over them? Whoever it is, their free will has been taken away and they are hypnotised into each bringing their most precious belonging to the Cherry Tree as an offering. The school children have been turned into goblins and Old Granny appears to have been transformed as well. Polly and the school teacher Alan Taylor are the only ones with a will left. They must find proof of the truth to bring the townsfolk back to their senses, but how?

This is highly addictive reading for children in the nine year old age group that love the unusual in the extreme sense. It will also appeal to older readers that can understand the clever turns of phrase that will certainly be used in the exchange of conversation with their peers. 

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