Meet the Gaskitts

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
Horace the cat likes old movies on TV and cat-food ads. Mr Gaskitt is young and slim and sometimes wears all his clothes at once; Mrs Gaskitt is an intrepid taxi driver; Gus and Gloria are twins with a taste for adventure; the fridge has a five-star freezer and is a good speller; the car radio sometimes gets things wrong. Meet the robber: he might fool the bank, but he can't fool Mrs Gaskitt; he certainly can't fool Gus and Gloria's class when he hijacks the school bus with a fake gun: "I've got one of them!", the kids cry. "It's plastic!" And he comes to a full stop when he tries to get round Mr Gaskitt in his many layers.

Allan Ahlberg is back on finest form with The Man Who Wore All His Clothes, illustated by Katherine McEwen (Walker Books pound;9.99), the first in a series about the Gaskitts. Just the thing for early readers to tackle alone or share with parent or teacher. There are some beautifully familiar Ahlberg themes - domestic bliss; pithy and witty observations about school life; crazy upside-down characters like the cat, the fridge and the radio that pop up during the narrative.

This book is a joy, made the more so by McEwen's bright, clear, funny and touching pictures, which capture perfectly the Ahlberg humour. Every page is a triumph, text and illustration in partnership drawing the reader on through this romp of a story, which shimmers with life and laughter. Long live the Gaskitts.

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