Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book Review: Gustav Gloom and the People Taker

GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE PEOPLE TAKER: For intermediate/middle grade readers who ACTUALLY read

Fernie What and her family just moved to the colourful neighbourhood of Sunnyside Terrace, only that Sunnyside Terrace wasn’t colourful at all. Just across the street is the Glooms’ dark mansion, which is about as dark as dark could ever be. One night, Fernie’s cat chases his own shadow into the Gloom mansion. Fernie finds herself lost in the mansion, meeting peculiar beings that are either friendly or horrifying -- or both.

Like other books with illustrations, the illustrations of Gustav Gloom and the People Taker are the first things I looked at. They are full-page, dark illustrations, playing with the shades of black to give the illusion of colours. The character designs are quite cartoonish, and that could be good or bad depending on how you see it.

Gustav Gloom is for intermediate readers, so it isn’t very surprising that the prose is very easy to understand. The words used are very simple, and the author doesn’t pretend to be a genius in the vocabulary -- and that is always a good thing when it comes to intermediate writing. I also appreciate the comedic descriptions and whatnots in the narrative. They give additional entertainment value.

The writing style isn’t perfect, though. Again, considering that it is for intermediate readers, the sentence construction of Gustav Gloom and the People Taker has the tendency to be too complicated. Intermediate books are the kind of books that should be suited to be read aloud, and if the book has a complicated sentence structure, there could be a problem in comprehension.

The writing in the action sequences could also be a chore to read, because the sentences are too long to pull off snappy action. Come to think of it, the whole book actually has too much description on practically any sequence, and that has the tendency to disengage readers.

The story of this book is actually pretty simple and easy to follow, and perhaps too simple and too easy to follow. Fernie just goes inside the mansion, tries to retrieve her cat, gets lost, meets dark beings along the way including the villain (the People Taker), defeats the villain, and that’s that. It lacks a solid plot. I think the chapters are not very planned-out, and most are random encounters inside the mansion.

True, these random encounters actually move the plot to the right direction, but I think they have too little to hold on to, and that has the tendency to disengage readers -- again.

But all in all, I think the simplicity could be a good thing. It’s a breath of fresh air for those who are tired of complicated plotlines. At least this book is very direct.

The characters, even though they lack growth and development in the story, are actually fine. This is because Gustav Gloom and the People Taker is a plot-driven book, and it doesn’t need complex characters to get its ideas across. The book’s focus is on how Fernie will get her cat back and escape the People Taker. But the characters do have little growth, especially in the final chapters of the book, and growth is always interesting because it triggers emotional responses to the viewers.

Overall, Gustav Gloom and the People Taker is an interesting read. Even though it doesn’t have a multilayered plot and complex characters, it is still enjoyable. It portrays a dark yet cartoony story that is truly pleasing, particularly because of the illustrations and the comedic descriptions. This is a book for the intermediate/middle grade audience who actually prefer reading than listening to someone else read the story aloud.

No comments:

Post a Comment