Tristan Bancks, Gus Gordon (illustrator), My Life and Other Failed Experiments (Tom Weekly #6), Random House Australia, July 2018, 208 pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780857983190
Confession: I have two brothers whose childhood antics gave new meaning to the word ‘grotesque’ so this action-packed title didn’t disappoint. In fact, reading Tom Weekly: My Life and Other Failed Experiments took me back to a simpler time where sibling threats, weird body odours, tyrannical teachers and hare-brained schemes were the norm.
In this sixth book of the series, Bancks dishes up ten easily digested stories — ranging from a hostage situation involving a guinea pig to the improvised Buttfresh spray for those inopportune ‘trouser coughs’ — each served with a healthy serve of gross-out humour, useful tips and life lessons from the wise, wacky and wonderful Tom.
Reluctant and confident readers aged 7-12 will find much to like in this latest instalment. My boys, now 18 and 20, would have loved this book in younger years … and may still, as their penchant for the grotesque seems to have developed into an art form as young adults.
Gus Gordon’s notebook-style sketches offer the perfect counterbalance to the text, providing just enough detail to make readers chuckle while leaving much to their imagination. The format works well too, with Tom’s humorous, seemingly random musings (often in list-form), working well as a palate cleanser between courses.
At the risk of overreach, I’d argue there are some important life lessons here, like the power of redemption (the angriest ice cream man in Australia, aka the IceCreaminator, comes to mind). Threaded throughout the stories, and what I loved most, is Tom’s ingenuity — he doesn’t need a phone or other device to work out what to do; he’s a master riffer who always seems to land on his feet.
Do yourself a favour and read this book and when you’re done laughing, give it to one of your kids to read. Then tell them to check out the author’s website for videos involving slime, exploding chickens and weaponised muffins, along with a Tom Weekly mask, free audio story, The Dog Kisser and other goodies.
Reviewed by Maura Pierlot