Sunday 11 December 2011

Review: The Wrong Pong by Steven Butler

One night, Neville Brisket wakes up from a strange dream - a dream that there is a horrible, stumpy finger stuck up his nose. Then he finds his room in a mess, and his dog in the laundry basket.

Neville's investigations end sposhily, when he is whooshed down the toilet to the land of Under! In a case of mistaken troll-dentity, he finds himself part of a disgusting new family. Will anybody help Neville get back to Over, or will he be stuck eating rat patties and left sock stew forever?

If there were more hours in the day, or my life wasn't as busy as it is, I would definitely read and review more books written for readers in the 7-10 age range. Sadly, it is far too easy for me to keep moving these books down the To Be Read pile so that I can read the next great 11+ book that has come through my letterbox. However, I have been trying harder, and this year discovered Andy Stanton's brilliant Mr Gum books (yes, months after everyone else had been raving about them), and of course Ivan Brett's fantastic Casper Candlewacks. There is something refreshing about reading books for this age group - they are often riotously funny, are littered with intelligent wordplay and harbour cleverly veiled morals within their plots.

The Wrong Pong by Steven Butler is one such story. Like Alice, Neville Brisket falls down a hole and finds himself in a strange land populated by fantastic creatures. Unfortunately for Neville, in his case the hole is the toilet on which he was sitting, and the creature that drags him through the pipes is a troll, a green one called Clod Bulch that "looked like a human had been crossed with a knobbly potato". Meanwhile Clod's troll son Pong is stranded in Neville's house, although with so many fun new distractions he seems more than happy in his new environment. 

The same cannot be said for Neville. The trolls of Under are everything you would expect from creatures who enjoy travelling through toilet pipes - Disgusting with a capital D. They eat rat patties fried in hair grease, battered badger lightly sprinkled with verruca shavings, and ear wax brownies. He also has to contend with Rubella - whilst Pong's parents bend over backwards to welcome their guest, his sister is less than impressed at the new arrival in her home and will do anything to get rid of him. Will Neville survive her devious schemes? Will he ever return to his normal life? Will he even want to, considering he gets more attention from the Clod's than he ever did from his own parents? And will his parents ever notice that their son has been replaced by a small green troll called Pong?

Having enjoyed this quick read for myself I tried it on my godson's younger brother and he loved it. In fact, on finishing it he demanded to know if there were any more Pong books available (there is - The Wrong Pong: Holiday Hullabloo, and hopefully more to follow). If you want to create within your son a lifelong love of reading then it is important to give them access to as many books as possible at this age, both fiction and non-fiction. Read the books yourself and then talk to them about their contents. The Wrong Pong is one of those books made for this kind of sharing - it is a story that you will find yourself giggling over with your child, as you both go "ewwwww" at all the disgusting bits.