George and the Great Brain Swappery

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Cal Wilson (text), Sarah Davis (illustrator), George and the Great Brain Swappery, Scholastic Australia, July 2019, 192 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk) ISBN 9781742762760,

George Pepperton’s mother, Professor Pippa is a talented inventor, so life for the Pepperton family – Philpott (Papa), Pumpernickel, twins Paprika and Pilates, and Poco who is the size of a lemon – is never dull or ordinary.

For her most recent invention, George’s mother has come up with a Brain Swapping Machine – its name giving an indication of its potential for creating havoc. When the Brain Swapping Machine is stolen by one of George’s classmates and taken on the school excursion to the zoo, it’s mayhem as the animals and visitors alike start behaving rather strangely.

George and the Great Brain Swappery is a ‘visual’ story. The creative interaction of text and illustrations successfully delivers a fun read for young children, especially helpful for new readers who may feel daunted by a whole page of text. The tone is playful and the black and white colour palette is carefully and cleverly managed to make the book visually enticing.

George and the Great Brain Swappery is the second children’s book by Cal Wilson – her first was George and the Great Bum Stampede. Cal Wilson is well-known for her highly successful career as a comedian. Her performances are cleverly written, and focused. The delivery is sharp, and she is hilarious in a laugh-out-loud way.

George and the Great Brain Swappery has a complex storyline involving multiple stories of adventure and mishap caused by Professor Pippa’s latest invention. There was too much happening at times and too many characters – human and animal – some of whom just suddenly appeared. The slick and concise writing Cal Wilson brings to her performances, if applied to George and the Great Brain Swappery, would certainly have delivered those anticipated laugh-out-loud moments.

The Peppertons are endearingly wacky and George and the Great Brain Swappery certainly captures the chaos that surrounds this likeable out-of-the-ordinary family. While the story may be unnecessarily complicated, and the humour not quite funny enough, this is a book about a chaos and perhaps feeling chaotic is indeed the intent.

Read the book, enjoy the illustrations, the quirky layout and (hopefully) have a laugh. Humour, after all, is entirely an individual response.

Reviewed by Jennifer Mors

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