________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 15 . . . . March 26, 1999

cover Getting Rid of Mr. Ribitus.

Alison Lohans. Illustrated by Barbara Hartmann.
Edmonton, AB: The Books Collective (Distributed by General Distribution Services), 1998.
66 pp., pbk., $5.95.
ISBN 1-895836-530.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7 -10.
Review by Liz Greenaway.

** /4


"Dad!" Curtis cried. "On my shoulder. Look!"

"I don't see anything on your shoulders but your shirt." Dad came and got the hose.

There was a cackly laugh. "He can't see me. I, Nicholas Ribitus, am invisible to adults. You'll be sorry our paths crossed, young flummox."

Curtis felt very strange. "There are other cracks," he said. "You can make a new living room. Maybe I can help."

"Fossilized fishguts!" shrieked the tiny stranger. "My ancestors date back to the great Marious Quiverus Ribitus the First. And you have the nerve to suggest that I move into a common crack?"

He's green, he's little, and he's angry. He's Mr. Ribitus. And ever since Curtis inadvertently flooded his home, Mr. Ribitus has been his problem. To make matters worse, because Mr. Ribitus can only be seen by kids, Curtis's parents think his new habit of talking to himself is very strange. If only his friends hadn't all gone away for the summer and left only Barbie-toting Amanda for him to play with. What will Curtis do?

iamge 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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