Kate Temple & Jol Temple, (text), Grace West (illustrator), Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie, Allen & Unwin, July 25 2018, 244 pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760523756
Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie is a spin off from the hugely popular, 2017 Honour Book Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade and the sequel, Jimmy Cook Marks the Spot. We meet Alice Toolie in these books as one of Jimmy’s classmates, but what we know of her is through the lens Jimmy applies as he tells his story.
The entire text for Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie is written in letter format, mostly letters from Alice Toolie to ‘Captain’ Jimmy Cook and from Jimmy back to Alice. After a big fight, Alice and Jimmy have been made to write letters to each other by Ms Fennel, their teacher, so that they can become friends. They are both reluctant as the fight was about Jimmy reading Alice’s diary, which she is understandably upset about, but which Jimmy asserts was her own fault.
The budding friendship starts out a little slowly as Alice and Jimmy struggle to find anything in common to write about. But a suspected bathroom ghost and making plans to catch it provide an opportunity for Alice and Jimmy to start connecting and working together. While they tell each other they could never be friends, it seems they will have no choice once their mums become chummy and organise a playdate. Alice and Jimmy have more in common than they first thought and will have to continue to communicate in order to free their jointly owned ghost in a jar.
After a few pages getting accustomed to the unique format, you start to see the benefits and wisdom in the choice of structure. The letters allow the reader to hear equally from both characters in their own voice. It is raw and honest; “So adults lie and your fish is not a zombie” (p. 93). Also written English is slightly different from spoken English, when we speak we use tones, but we don’t have that when we write so we tend to use more descriptive language. This is demonstrated well in this book as Alice and Jimmy use quite an expansive and expressive vocabulary that young readers will absorb (‘quixotry’ was not in my vocabulary until this book). It also plants a seed in young readers’ minds that letter writing might be a really fun way to communicate.
As Alice and Jimmy write to one another, they (mainly Alice) also draw pictures and doodles to emphasise, accentuate and enhance their writing. Grace West has done a really great job providing the illustrations for this book.
It is lovely to read a book about (and thus for) ‘tween boys and girls communicating in a healthy, constructive way, finding common interests, working on projects together and ultimately building a friendship. Kate and Jol Temple do a great job hitting the fad topics for the key demographic for this book with references to fidget spinners, emojis, unicorns and slime. They also do a really great job of exploring what a boy-girl friendship can look like.
This would be a great tool for teachers (or parents) of Grade 3-6 kids, specifically if you want to introduce the writing style and format typically used for letter writing. The kids will really love it, and might learn something too.