CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 15 . . . . December 14, 2012
Tom Gates is looking forward to the new school year. Although he is perpetually late for school, he always has a good excuse – and he knows the quickest route, which just happens to go right by the bakery. In fact, he has an excuse ready to placate any teacher wanting something he isn't ready to deliver; and if an excuse won't do the trick, he has a note. The excuses range from why his homework isn't done to why he shouldn't go to gym. In short, Tom is a rambunctious grade 5 boy. He dreams about becoming famous with his band, the Dog Zombies, loves bugging his sister, Delia, and doodling. He also knows the importance of a good gag and is always willing to play a joke on the most annoying boy in his class – always justified in doing so, of course.
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates is Tom's diary and doodle book in which the reader follows his day, including his daydreams and homework assignments. Through Tom's diary, the reader follows Tom as he plans his homework, procrastinates regarding his homework, and plans excuses for his homework not being done. The reader watches him play his tricks on his sister and draw caricatures of his teachers. The reader also gets a front row seat to witness Tom's attempts to impress his crush, Amy Potter.
In many ways, Tom Gates is Britain's Greg Heffley of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame. Greg has his obnoxious brother; Tom has his moody sister. They each have parents they find embarrassing. Each is trying to navigate school life. One refreshing difference, however, is that Tom rarely focuses on the negative. He is enthusiastic and always focussing on what he thinks is funny or interesting.
Pichon's use of word art and simple drawings lures the reader into the world of Tom and helps keep the reader focused. The artwork also provides visual clues to assist the struggling reader to decipher the meaning behind the text. Further, the use of white space and large print allows for an easier transition to longer, possibly more intimidating, chapter books.
Some readers may find the use of English slang confusing, but Pichon has provided a glossary to assist with understanding. The language does provide an additional flavour to the tale.
Tom will never be used as an exemplar of proper behaviour, but his antics are entertaining and will be a hit with younger boy readers particularly.
Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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