Michael Rosen (text) and Neal Layton (illustrator), Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot (Uncle Gobb #3), Bloomsbury Publishing, September 2018, 272 pp., RRP $22.25 (hbk), ISBN
Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot is the third book in the Uncle Gobb series by Michael Rosen. It’s the first one I have read but that didn’t seem to matter much. I was hooked from the start by its funny metafictive devices, including its shameless promotion of the rest of the series.
The basic story is that Malcom — with the help of his friends, family and a genie from up his nose — needs to stop Uncle Gobb from taking over the plot of land next to the school to start his own school that will only teach what he regards as Very Important Facts.
Uncle Gobb is a hilarious parody of all that is wrong with adults. He’s self-righteous, deluded, and power hungry. He is so blinded by his obsession with ridiculous details that he is laughable, but at the same time there is something ominous about him. He has tried to do away with Malcolm in previous books so there is some depth to his character and Malcolm’s relationship with him. He’s more than just a laughing stock.
The book is jam packed with sheer absurdity. Like the weasels who sit outside the narrative and provide commentary for no reason other than fun. It’s absurdity that saves it in the end. What it lacks in strong storyline, it makes up in risible riffs on words and quips about writing itself. The self-referential stuff about chapters, appendices, topics and words would make it a good mentor text for teaching structure and craft.
This is an irreverent book, but it’s not without life lessons to be learned. It encapsulates lots of things I’d like to foster in my students — a curious mindset, a sense of fun, playfulness with words, self-deprecating humour, and the wherewithal to challenge the arbitrary absurdities of unreasonable adults. It might be tricky as a read-aloud because of the detailed illustrations and typography, but I’ll be recommending it to independent readers.
Reviewed by Liz Patterson