By Elaine Wickson
Illustrated by Chris Judge
240pp, £6.99, paperback
At first glance, Planet Stan reminded me of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The two both have line drawings, a similar typeface, a colloquial style and an 11-year-old antihero. The Tom Gates series of books has done reading for pleasure a huge service. I confess, though, that I am starting to find the format a bit hackneyed, so I was looking at this latest contribution to the genre with a very critical eye, as I asked: what more does it add?
At first, I admit, I wasn’t certain, but as the story progressed, the book began to win me over. Its hero, Stan, is passionately interested in space, which means that the book is full of tempting facts about the universe, encouraging the reader to find out more. And the underlying message is that science and knowledge is cool, even though Stan still daydreams and gets into trouble.
Museums are cool, too. Stan and his little brother Fred argue about almost everything – apart from their love of the local museum (recognisably based on the Museum of Natural History in Oxford). The centrepiece here is Rory the (skeleton) dinosaur. When a bright new museum director decides to remove Rory from display, the plot thickens and gathers interest, as Stan and Freddie finally learn to cooperate.
While I cannot quite imagine teaching this as a class text, the response from my Year 3 readers was very positive. They enjoyed the story and it created a great buzz: the copies are still circulating furiously because everyone in the class wants to read it. I think it would be a very useful addition to the school library or class book corner. It would appeal to children who like Tom Gates and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but it takes them further than those books, as it gets them thinking about space and science, not to mention familiarising them with the concept of the pie chart. It also explores children’s frustrations with their siblings, but ultimately delivers an important message about misunderstanding, and the need for empathy and collaboration.
Louisa Farrow is assistant headteacher and teaching and learning support lead at St Matthew’s C of E Primary School in Birmingham
Bickering brothers brought together
‘It made me want to learn more about dinosaurs’
I would recommend this to someone who likes silly or disgusting things – or to someone who is interested in space. I quite enjoyed it. I liked the pages that had lots of information, and the diagrams and the bit about the dinosaur: it made me want to learn more about dinosaurs.
‘People who like funny books would enjoy it’
It’s quite funny – it reminded me a bit of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. People who like funny books would enjoy it. I especially liked the part when Stan was trying to wear his trousers for protection from his little brother and I also thought Flossie was a funny character.
‘In the middle, it made me feel a bit annoyed’
The diagrams were really good. In the middle, it made me feel a bit annoyed because the idea of space makes me feel small and a bit confused because I don’t like space much. But I was happy at the end because It reminded me of my birthday because Stan gets his telescope from Mr Hadfield.
‘I liked it because it was so funny’
I liked it because it was so funny. Freddie reminded me of my little sister because he kept fighting with Stanley and talking in a funny way.
‘This book makes me want to learn about space’
My favourite part is when Fred runs around the house as Willie Winkie. I would recommend it to people who like funny stories. The characters were realistic, like me and my sister. This book makes me want to learn more about space.
‘Freddie reminded me of my sister’
I liked the book because it’s about two brothers who are very different, but realise that they can work together. Freddie reminded me of my sister; like him, she does crazy things. When Fred brought the meteorite to the science fair, it showed that all the annoying things he did were actually trying to show Stan that he cared.
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