Artie and the Grime Wave written and illustrated by Richard Roxburgh (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $16.99
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
Artie Small doesn’t like adventure. After his father dies, he decides ‘life is tricky enough without adding unnecessary scary bits’. But when he and his friend Bumshoe discover a cave full of Almost-Certainly-Stolen-Stuff, and Bumshoe is captured, Artie needs to find the courage to rescue his friend and deliver the stolen ‘Gareth the tortoise’ back to Gladys (his secret crush).
Thus begins a series of zany adventures that are sure to appeal to the target age group (8–12). Artie is hunted down by a mob of crooked characters involved in the shady business – Mary, Budgie, Funnel-Web, Nate, Wart and the wicked Mayor Grime himself. Fortunately, their wacky neighbour, Aunty Boy, has a vast array of inventions and ideas to help him in his quest. The humour overshadows a darker side to the story for, in amidst the madness, poor Artie just wants his mum (who hasn’t properly cared for him, or for herself, since his dad died).
This is a fresh, unpredictable book that does not shy away from wedgie, fart, burp and snot jokes. (There is also plenty of other humour for readers not so taken with bodily functions!) The writing really comes alive in the character descriptions. For instance, Aunty Boy’s rounded figure and colourful clothing makes her look ‘like somebody’s balloon collection’. Her dog, Macaroni, looks like ‘he was made entirely of spare parts from other dogs’! Fans of David Walliams’ The World’s Worst Children will surely love reading about Wart, a stenchy, onion-eating bully.
Author Richard Roxburgh is an established, well-known Australian actor, who has clearly transposed his natural forte for characterisation straight to the page in this, his first novel. The written character descriptions are made funnier by his quirky, cartoon illustrations throughout. The story finishes with a great conclusion, and a wonderful message about friendship, family and finding courage to step ‘into the unknown’.