Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

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Tim Harris (text),  James Hart (illus.), Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables, Penguin Random House Australia, 28th August 2017 , 240pp, $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143785859 

‘I have a dream,’ repeated the teacher… 

‘…I have a dream that the children of today should find their true passions and follow them. Too often we teach children to think a certain way, when all along their minds are wired for something completely different.’ 

There is something truly extraordinary about class 12B’s new teacher! Turning up for his first day on a unicycle, cooking bacon and eggs in class, charming the terrifying Canteen Carol and brewing up a cup of Himalayan tea for each of his students, Mr Bambuckle is no average, run-of-the-mill educator, he is a wonderful enigma.  Apart from the impressive tricks up his sleeve and the magical twinkle in his eye, Mr Bambuckle has a way of really seeing his students, knowing about their deepest fears and helping them to realise their true, and of course, remarkable potential.  By dispensing with the school’s meaningless praise system, and encouraging child initiated, creative learning styles, Mr Bambuckle infuses the curriculum with the awe and wonder his most excellent students crave.  And somewhere in midst of all the excitement; the student’s shared stories and the app-designing, drone-building lessons, class 12B find that their teacher has given them the priceless gift of confidence, self belief and the knowledge that it’s okay to be different.  But as all this positivity begins to make a real difference and the amazing Mr Bambuckle grows ever fonder of his class of Remarkables, disaster is looming just around the corner in the shape of the perpetually miserable and disillusioned Principal Sternblast.  Will the newly empowered students find a way to save Mr Bambuckle or will Principal Sternblast get his way, and rid the school of its most brilliant teacher?

Through this clever mix of short, pacey chapters, student retellings, fun class activities and hilarious student notes, Tim Harris creates an enthralling, often poignant, laugh-out-loud story.

James Hart’s wickedly expressive cartoon illustrations are the perfect accompaniment, adding yet another delightfully funny layer to this already highly engaging narrative.

Much of the humour is delivered through Harris’s masterful grasp of both the classroom and child-adult dynamic. His knowledge of how his quirky student characters relate to one another, and the adults in their lives, is born of the author’s real-life primary school experiences, resulting in a book that is jam-packed with authentically moving and often comic moments.

Whilst this title would be happily devoured by any young reader, (upper-primary aged children and beyond) I would also be very keen to share this text in the classroom environment. Not only is the title sure to encourage children to attempt some creative storytelling of their own, it also sends an extremely relevant message; celebrating the fact that being different is what makes a person special. It also acts as an inspiring reminder to all teachers, that each and every one of our students is remarkable and a living story just waiting to be heard.

Reviewed by Lisa Hoad

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