Friday, 29 July 2011

Too Small to Fail by Morris Gleitzman

Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback
Published: 4th August 2011
Number of Pages: 192
Book: For Review From Penguin*
Genre: Realistic-Fiction, Humourous, Adventure, Middle Grade, YA-Child Crossover, YA
Recommended Age: 9+
Contains Nothing Unsuitable, Other Than the Word: “Poo”
No Alcohol, Drug References

What do you do when your mum, your dad and sixteen camels are in trouble – and only you can save them?  The sometimes sad but mostly funny story of a boy, a girl, a dog and four trillion dollars.

From Press Release:
1 boy.  1 girl.  1 camel.
Millions of dollars.
A plan that can’t fail.  Or can it?
Oliver’s parents own a bank.  This makes them very rich, very important and very busy.  Oliver, on the other hand, is terrible at maths and aspires to nothing more than owning the puppy that he frequently visits at his local pet shop.
When a mysterious woman buys the puppy and threatens to harm it if Oliver can’t return her thousand of dollars (unfortunately, Oliver’s parents seem to have misplaced her life savings – something to do with some stuff on the news) Oliver hatches a plan that will take him further than he ever imagined…

Oliver’s parents are incredibly rich, and busy with their bank.  Oliver doesn’t care about money.  All he wants is the dog behind the glass at the pet shop.  So when a lady comes along and buys the dog, he doesn’t think it can get any worse.  Until she threatens him (the dog-him; not Oliver-him).  Apparently his parents took her money and she wants it back.  If Oliver doesn’t get her money for her in one week, the dog dies.  Then… it gets even worse.  It turns out that the woman has sixteen camels who may die from lack of water.  And it’s all his parents’ fault!  What will Oliver do, and how on earth can he save those innocent camels from dying?
This was my first Morris Gleitzman book, and I can honestly say I absolutely adored it!  We all know that when some adults write as ‘children’, it feels fake, forced.  With Gleitzman’s book, on the other hand, I could actually feel Oliver’s age, his innocence.  I looked through his eyes, and saw the world just as a ten-year-old would.  Somehow, Gleitzman managed to create a believable voice narrating a funny, sweet, yet somehow serious story.  It was addictive, humorous and I stayed up late especially to finish it.
Oliver was such an amazing lead.  He was practical, intelligent, slightly naive and bad at maths.  He had this way of seeing things, and coming to sensible conclusions, no matter how insane and unbelievable they truly were after the fact.  Oliver had a strong moral compass, which is something that – in my opinion – every good hero should have.  But no one took him seriously: he was always worrying too much, or just had an overactive imagination.  All he wanted to be respected by parents who were there for him more.  Oliver was so sweet, young and innocent; seeing the crisis through him was absolutely intriguing.
The other characters were perfect as well.  Nancy, who appeared to be bad in the beginning, but turned out to just be desperate.  Her daughter Rose, whose obvious loathing of Oscar was almost amusing at times; though that may just have been the ways she expressed herself.  How many girls march into someone else’s school, just to punch them in the stomach?  And I loved Barclay: the little dog who was the only solid thing Oliver longed for.  Oh, and Moo.  She was cute when she wasn’t stamping on peoples’ heads.
Gleitzman managed to explain the economic crisis in a way that everyone can understand, no matter how young they are.  With statements such as “big bikkies” and “in the poo”, he even managed to make the crisis fun, odd as that may be.  And, although it’s aimed at middle-grade readers, Too Small to Fail easily crosses over into adult fiction.  After all, it is about an adult problem, and they may even learn something valuable from the book: I know I did!
The story line was so strong, there were completely unexpected twists, and a very powerful moral undertone.  It was also absolutely hilariously funny: there’s something about Gleitzman’s writing style, I think.  However, family loyalties played a major theme: how far should you go to do the right thing – even if it means hurting the ones you love?  Plus, the plot was so ridiculous, it was almost believable.  And, yes, I am aware of how strange that sounds, but if you read the book, you may understand what I mean.  All I’m certain of is that I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more of Gleitzman’s books from now on!

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Anything by Morris Gleitzman
Anything by Roald Dahl

Older Readers:

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading
* This book was received from Penguin in exchange for an honest review

1 comment:

T.B. said...

This sounds adorable! I love how Oliver is a sweet, innocent boy, but suddenly he has to do all that he can to save that dog! I always think that's great when a book is fun, but carries more serious undertones and messages as well. Great review Megan!