Mr. Gum is disgusting. He doesn’t bathe, and his house is a disaster. He’s so filthy that even the pages of the book are covered in shmootz.
Mr. Gum’s favourite television show is called, “Bag Of Sticks.” It’s a picture of a bag of sticks on the screen for 30 minutes. Mr. Gum is always up to no good. Whether he’s trying to poison a dog or steal money, his behaviour is reprehensible. Yet, very clean and proper children love reading the Mr. Gum series.
In fairness, the Mr. Gum books are not just about Mr. Gum. The townsfolk of Lamonic Bibber are pretty quirky too. There’s Alan Taylor, a billionaire gingerbread-cookie turned educator. Polly is a sweet girl who fights evil with her Pollyness. Friday O’Leary is a sort-of wise old man, whose catchphrase is, “The truth is a lemon meringue!” Old Granny is a crusty old lady, who drinks an occasional sherry. Martin Launderette owns a laundromat, and has it in for Jonathan Ripples.
Author Andy Stanton’s style is sort of Roald Dahl meets Monty Python. His writing is imaginative, funny, and bizarre, and the language is elastic. Kids love the quirky characters and plots. Mr. Gum books are wonderful for motivating reluctant readers. Each page has about ten lines, and each book is less than 200 pages. That’s quite short, but kids feel a real sense of achievement of having completed a longer chapter book. There are some black and white illustrations to enhance the story line, and some silly songs.
You could easily extend the reading to discussions and writing activities by visiting the website, which is full of quizes and extra information about the characters and the town. Some of the books include “Top Ten” lists for each character at the back.
My kids listened to an audio version of “The Biscuit Billionaire” read by the author, Andy Stanton. They loved the voices and the songs. It’s available for download from audible.com
The Mr. Gum series is not high literature, but it is a zany ride through some quirky and hilarious characters and plots. Highly recommended for reluctant and voracious readers. Highly recommended for ages 6-11.
I would love to hear which books have you found motivating for reluctant readers, and just as appealing for enthusiastic readers?