Wednesday, January 10, 2018
The tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond illustrated by Alex T Smith
Bert Brown has been driving this same bus route for ten years and for the previous ten years he drove another bus route. By now he is tired of the stopping, the passengers, the naughty children "traffic lights, traffic jams, hold-ups, roadworks, glaring sun, fog and puddles, ice and bloomin' snow."
Yes it is time for a change - but perhaps all Bert needs is a change of focus - something special in his life - and this arrives in the form of a tiny angel he finds in his pocket. He takes the little angel home and his wife, who is a very happy school lunch lady, adores him. They name him Angelino and take delight in every tiny thing the boy does even his little farts (there are hundreds in this story). Betty takes him along to her school and it is there he finds his voice. Angelino sits through a very serious and, for a reader, a very funny English lesson with Professor Smellie. When Angelino declares "I don't know nowt." The professor explodes!
Meanwhile there are some baddies (of course) and they are plotting to kidnap Angelino and sell him to the highest bidder. One of the 'criminals' is a master of disguise or so he thinks but he is also a former school student and Betty recognises him as Kevin Hawkins. His cover is blown. From this point on things become quite crazy with chases and more bullies and heroic children and even though little (he is growing actually) Angelino is kidnapped it all works out in the end with large helpings of happiness for everyone.
I don't think it is a coincidence that Bert reads or tells the story of Pinocchio to little Angelino when Angelino first sleeps in Paul's bed. Paul was the son of Bert and Betty "He came a long time ago but he couldn't stay. He got very ill and very tired. He had to go back to heaven." Bert and Betty have lost Paul but they have found Angelino.
When you pick up this book don't rush to open it. Take time to stretch out the whole cover and then peek under the dust jacket and then puzzle over the end papers (no I don't know what these little illustrations represent.) I think this book would be a winner as a class read-aloud with a middle Primary group. It would be fun to talk about all the names invented by David Almond - Cornelius Nutt the Government Advisor and Narcissus Spleen the Secretary of State for Education. You might also try some art activities such as those done by the children in the wonderful Mrs Monteverdi's class using Angelino as a model.
Australian children reading this book may be curious about the sweets that Angelino enjoys called Midget Gems.
I would follow this book with Conrad the story of a factory made boy (an old favourite of mine), Noah Barleywater runs away, Skellig - also by David Almond and Eep!
Just for fun take a look at this web site where you can see Alex T Smith and David Almond enjoying some chocolate cake with custard - yes this treat is mentioned several times in this story.
This story is about goodness and kindness versus badness and unkindness; of opportunity reborn; the reinvention of the self and second chances. It is a story of love and hope rekindled. Kids Book Review
David Almond inspires readers’ imagination and raises questions about definitions of good and bad. It is a Wonderful book.