CM . . . .
Volume V Number 15 . . . . March 26, 1999
"Dad!" Curtis cried. "On my shoulder. Look!"Lohans has an imaginative idea here. A little 450-year-old man who lives in the ground and is seen only by children, Mr. Ribitus is one of the curmudgeonly creations to come out of children's literature in recent memory. I found the writing a little flat and in need of editing, though, and the author's idea never really takes off. The reader never does find out more about Mr. Ribitus, before he disappears as mysteriously as he'd appeared. Similarly, I would've liked to have come to know Curtis a bit better. We know that he has a strained relationship with his parents, but this is never developed or explained.
I couldn't help thinking of a similar theme in Richard Scrimger's novel, The Nose From Jupiter, in which Allan finds himself the unwilling host of a minuscule alien, Norbert. Comparisons are odious, but, in that novel, the reader gets the sense that Allan has grown as a result of his encounter with Norbert, and I was hoping for the same sort of development here. Lohans does hint at this with Curtis's relationship with Amanda, but there is very little character development.
Having said that, I'm sure that a 7-year-old reader would find lots to giggle at in the exchanges between the belligerent Mr. Ribitus and the bewildered Curtis. The short chapter format, coupled with Barbara Hartmann's charming black and white illustrations, makes this an obvious choice for someone just getting into chapter books, as well as a good choice for a read-aloud story for family or classroom.
Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller living in Kingston, ON.
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