It’s been a number of years since I’ve read a book by Paul Jennings, so the Book Club was more than delighted to receive a copy of The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Mr Jennings, and illustrated by Craig Smith, from Allen & Unwin for review. Before I unleash the Club on this quirky and heartwarming tale, here’s the blurb from A&U:
Now you see him, now you don’t – an action-packed adventure about a boy who just wants to blend in, from a bestselling author/illustrator team.Even before all this happened I had never been like the other kids. I tried not to be seen. If I climbed a tree or hid among the bins, no one could find me. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ they’d say.
Then, one weekend, I got what I wanted. First, I blended in with things. But on the second day I changed.
I mean, really changed.
The hilarious story of a boy with an unusual problem, from children’s book legend Paul Jennings. Includes fantastic look-and-find colour illustrations.
And here’s what the Maniacal Book Club have to say on the topic…
When the eyes of the world are watching, will you step into the limelight or shrink into the shadows? This is the dilemma faced by young What’s His Name. To stand up and be counted, or overlooked, like a single monkey amidst a herd of leaping banana-chewers: only you can make the decision to be seen as you truly are. We would all do well to take a lesson from young What’s His Name. Blending in with your surroundings may solve your problem in the short term, but eventually, one must show one’s true colours, or risk remaining forever like a statue over a pond, while the moss slowly grows over one’s head.
There are no dragons in this book. There are a bunch of crazy monkeys that run all over town though, and a dog with no ears and a motorcycle gang, and even a boy who can transform into lots of cool things. It sounds like a cool superpower but most of the time it isn’t very convenient for What’s His Name. One time, one of the monkeys even tries to pee on him! They call that monkey the Big Pee!
I really liked Sandy the dog too. This book has a lot of funny things in it and I think kids who like wacky adventures and unexpected things will like this book. It would be fun to have a teacher read this book out in class because I think all the kids would be laughing.
This poem is inspired by Simon and Garfunkle’s folk hit Feelin’ Groovy.
Hello lampost, whatcha knowing?
It appears you have two ears growing.
And is that a hair or three?
Do, do, do, do, do
Paul Jennings, it must be said, is a master of magical realism, with a narrative style all his own. Whether it has been two weeks or twenty years since you last read one of his books, I can guarantee that you’ll fall straight back into his familiar way of storytelling. The Unforgettable What’s His Name is a book about a boy who wants to fade from sight. Painfully shy, the boy gets the jitters whenever he thinks people are watching him and this leads to some unique and giggle-worthy problems. All the expected Jennings features are included here: unexpected and hilarious situations involving our protagonist, things going wrong at exactly the wrong moment, characters who aren’t necessarily what they appear to be on the outside, and at least one reference to pooh.
The book didn’t seem to me as laugh-out-loud funny as some of Jennings classic works, but there are certainly a range of events that will have readers cringing with embarrassment and wriggling with glee as all sorts of silly situations unfold, requiring skin-of-your-teeth escapes and some truly innovative solutions to problems. The book is illustrated throughout with both black and white line drawings and double-page spread, full colour illustrations, which add to the magical aspects of the book.
Putting aside the craziness of being able to turn into a human chameleon when anxious for a moment, this book is at its heart a story about facing one’s fears and carving out a place to belong. As in most of Jennings’ work, the bottom line notes that you don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to fit in somewhere.
I’d definitely recommend this as an insta-buy for classroom libraries or as a treat for fans (new and old) of the quirky, unexpected mind of Paul Jennings.
Until next time,
Bruce and the gang