The Brilliant World of Tom Gates
Candlewick, 2014 239 pgs
Fifth-year British school boy, Tom Gates, begins his new term with some sweeping changes. He is moved to the front row where the teacher can keep an eye on him and he is sandwiched between his crush, Amy, and the most annoying boy in the school, Marcus. Tom spends most of his school day daydreaming and doodling in his notebook. After school he hangs out with his best friend and band mate from his two person band "Dogzombies". The simple plot involves Tom and friends scoring tickets and going to see their favorite band Dude3 in concert. Along the way Tom experiences many comical misadventures including disastrous family get-togethers, forgotten homework excuses and cafeteria and playground hi-jinks. Throughout it all Tom never loses his quirky upbeat personality and charm.
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates is the British response to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The simple, humorous, yet realistic plot is generously peppered with doodles and drawings meant to be scribbled by Tom. The book was originally published in Great Britain. The American version still holds onto British terms and items (specifically candy), yet is easily understood by an American audience. I actually found Tom a bit more lovable and funnier than Greg Heffley. My favorite part was the disastrous school picture, an episode that made me laugh out-loud. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates is not great literature, but will be enjoyed by a wide range of young people. Both boys and girls of all reading levels will read this book from start to finish and learn a bit about British culture (candy!) and how to torture your older sister in the process. The book feels very contemporary and Tom is a very approachable character making readers feel right at home. More books in the series are to follow and will be anticipated by a new American audience. Pichon lacks the subtlety of my favorite British humorist, Roald Dahl, but any author that makes this crusty old librarian laugh is okay in my book. Welcome to America, Tom Gates!