Leo Timmers (illus. and original text), James Brown (Translation) Gus’s Garage, Gecko Press NZ, 1 Sept 2016, 32pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781776570935
In the opening of this story, Gus the pig appears to be a bit of a hoarder, with all sorts of bits and bobs stacked beside his garage – old fridge, bathtub, armchair, drums, tyres and the like. But as his animal friends come to his garage for help, it becomes apparent that Gus is an amazing engineer, devising incredible creations from his stash of junk to modify his friend’s vehicles for their comfort.
The illustrations in this book take centre stage. Painted in acrylic, the full page illustrations are rich both in colour and humour. There is so much fun to be had in the visual narrative, from Gus’s amazing creations to many smaller quirky details that will have children poring over each page and guessing what Gus might use next.
This is a beautifully balanced book, with Gus’s garage on the left of every page and his friends driving their vehicles up to, and away from the garage on the right side of alternate pages. Subtle illustrative changes mark the passing of time, like the sky darkening and Gus getting greasier as the day progresses, and the addition of a different bird hiding amongst the junk. At the end, Gus is left with a handful of things –will he be able to help himself after helping everyone else? Children will love the hilarious conclusion.
The text is sparse, allowing the illustrations to shine. Originally published in Belgium, the English language translation by James Brown features simple, short rhyming couplets and a repetitive refrain that perfectly match the humour of the pictures.
A showcase for recycling, inventiveness, engineering and friendship, this book is highly recommended. For ages 3-8.
Reviewed by Debra Tidball