Thursday, 13 December 2012

Truly Tan

Truly Tan by Jen Storer, illustrated by Claire Robertson (Harper Collins)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9780733331213
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This book should be marked – Be warned! Contains extremely funny matter and is highly suitable for both genders in the 8-12 age group. It is light- hearted with terrific characters, mystery, and entertainment on every page.

Tan, the narrator, is curious, questioning, and reflective. She is an amateur detective with three sisters - Emerald, Amber, and Rose, whom she calls the lollipops. There is a collection of pets: Q V the tortoise, Babbles the parrot, E the cat, Doodad, Amber’s cat, and Tan’s dog, Awesome. Dad is a vet and mum writes about food for a magazine.

The family moves from the city to the country, but the girls aren’t happy about this decision. On arrival, they find the dodgy removalists have dumped their furniture and belongings on the veranda and grass and left. They see it as a bad start to a bad idea.

In no time at all, Tan has more on her mind than their change of environment. She meets Ted who invites the girls to enter his ‘circle of truth’ on a promise not to reveal his secrets. Thus they join the Chosen Few. Ted’s sister, Jem, lives in a creative world of her own design.  All the girls are invited into Purple Haunt, Jem and Ted’s spooky cubbyhouse, which is painted purple and decorated with a dead fox, skulls of dead animals, has stairs and a veranda. Suddenly, life becomes interesting again.

Tan’s diary entries slowly reveal her changing feelings about country life. She finds an old tree house which she cleans out with her dad’s help. Here she sets up her new World Headquarters, which houses her telescope, binoculars, a real Spy ‘n Pry magnifying glass, and her Secret Spy Files which contain all her observations about people and unusual happenings. This will later include the curse of the dead fox, and Wandering Wanda, a ghost that won’t rest.

But Tan has a lot of sorting out to do. She is the new girl at school and she misses her best friend. Lily steps into the role too easily but proves a fickle friend when the popular Verity Crisp returns from holidays. Tan’s cat skeleton at show and tell causes uproar in the classroom, and finally, Tan finds a real new friend in Gloria.

What with the drop dunny out back of the cubbyhouse, spooks, and trying to solve the mysteries of Wandering Wanda and the haunting of Purple Haunt, much is added to the Secret Spy Files.

The book is more than a great read. Unfamiliar words and their definitions are displayed within an illustration of graph paper stuck with tape. The reader can visualize the people they’re reading about through the character illustrations. Thankfully, this is not the end of Tan for so much more can be explored through the characters and their escapades. Truly Tan: Jinxed will be available in May 2013. I feel that this also, will not be the end.

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