Bill has been limbering himself up recently to embark on the fourth Harry Potter book. It's the 'Goblet of Fire' and at 640 pages the first one where J.K. started to shed some self-editing inhibitions. He REALLY wants to read it but there's no doubt that the sheer size of the task in front of him feels overwhelming. He also knows that nothing but More and More pages lie in the volumes in front of him, the gentle foothills of the relatively contained first three books are behind and nothing but great peaks are in view now. He does a lot of getting the last four books out of the shelves, lining them up, flicking through them, sitting on them and just silent gazing at them; willing them to reveal their secrets more easily. He's just not sure he can spare the time from falling off his skateboard, drawing robots and building Lego weaponry to Commit and I understand just how he feels. I go through much the same motions with the first volume of Proust.
So, like all good mountaineers, I have suggested that he allow himself to acclimatise on the lower slopes for a while; admire how far he's come and stop and smell the alpine flowers. It's time to pause, let the boy wizard enjoy his summer break and read some things with Less Words In Them.
And the books with less but perfectly chosen words in them that he has most enjoyed over the last couple of weeks have been Guy Bass's 'Dinkin Dings' series. Bill has recently worked out that his favourite type of books are 'funny adventure stories' (so say all of us to be honest; that's why I am never more than 10 metres away from a Georgette Heyer novel). I scour the shelves to provide him with as many possible sources of these to choose from and accept that some fall by the wayside ('Astrosaurs' for instance which I thought would hit the mark) and some are devoured and Twist-like must be followed by MORE.
There are four 'Dinkin Dings' books to sustain that appetite (not quite enough for a growing boy actually). Dinkin Dings the hero is a boy who is frightened of absolutely everything apart from his 'Frightening Things' friends; a monster, a skeleton and a ghost who share his room. When new next door neighbours move in, Dinkin is the only person who thinks that they are in fact flesh eating alien space zombies. When he eats fish fingers by accident, Dinkin is sure the mutated fingerless Fish Men will come out of the shadows to get him. For some reason nobody believes him.
Well more fool them. I'm not giving too much away but let's just say thank god for far-sighted boys like Dinkin out there who protect the rest of us naive fools and allow us to pass our daily lives in a state of benign credulity.
The secret of these books' appeal to both Bill and me is of course that Dinkin is right some of the time but not all of the time, there are some genuine surprises unfolded. That's relatively unusual in my speed reading of books for this market and I appreciate some crafty plotting. And they're funny; text aided by some great illustrations by Pete Williamson- Dinkin's fear expressed by being mainly composed of eyes and hair.
'"Don't tell me you ate fish fingers..." said Edgar
'I didn't mean to! I was distracted! My dad had grown a moustache! I thought he was some sort of spy, or evil dad-double!"
"Well, that's all right then- except that we're now DOOMED!" screamed Arthur'
Funny + Adventure = Bill chuckling on the sofa and ignoring skateboard, drawing pad and Lego. No need for me then, I'd better go and start on Proust if 'Regency Buck' doesn't distract me on the way...
'Dinkin Dings and the Revenge of the Fish-Men' by Guy Bass, illustrated by Pete Williamson, pub.Stripes isbn 978-1-84715-086-8 (three other titles available all with 7 yr old boy APPROVED stamp)