Wednesday 28 September 2022

Digging up Dad

Digging up Dad by Morris Gleitzman (Puffin Books) PB RRP $16.99 isbn9781760890940

Reviewed by Kathleen Grace

The sub-title of this book is ‘…and other hopeful (and funny) stories.’ One would expect a Gleitzman book to be humorous, and this is his aim in these eleven stories with titles like ‘Biggies Behaving Better,’ ‘Does My Mum Look Big in This’, and ‘A Sorry Spectacle.’

The first story in the collection, ‘Great, Great, Great’ is made up of a series of anecdotes. The first sentences read, ‘Every Thursday afternoon, while I’m sitting here with Mum, I think about my dead rellies. I call them my great great greats.’ First is Great Great Great Uncle Thyroid, a fearless sloth hunter. After Thyroid’s tracking adventures, the story segues into France where there’s a young woman at a spinning wheel. Then there’s someone called Lucienne. The final section sees the narrator visiting Dad in prison. Spiders feature in the story, but it’s difficult to quite make sense of the story. One wonders what children will make of it.

The second story, ‘Fake Nudes’ makes more sense. Twins in year six are involved in a school holiday project called Helping at Home. Jock and his sister Wil are trying to spy on their neighbours in the hope of getting a glimpse of them in the nude.  “You don’t have to see a whole naked person,” says Wil. “Just a bottom of a nipple will do.” By the end of the story the twins meet the neighbours in person and learn why they are identically dressed (sorry, kids, no nudity…)

Other stories are about a dad’s expensive watch and a dying friend, getting on with your sister like a house on fire, and being a great cat burglar. The theme of children trying to help adults, especially parents, is evident in each of the stories.. All are pitched at readers aged 9 to 12 years, and are written in Gleitzman's usual, casual, and easy-to-read style which is evident in other amusing books he’s written such as Give Peas a Chance, Pizza Cake, and Snot Chocolate.

Morris Gleitzman is said to be one of Australia's funniest and best-loved authors for young people. He was Australian Children’s Laureate 2018/2019. His books explore serious and sometimes confronting subjects in humorous and unexpected ways.

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