Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen

Russell Hoban
Illustrator:   Quentin Blake 
For ages 5 to 7
David R Godine, 2006   ISBN: 978-1567923223

Tom lives with his rather fierce looking Aunt, Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong.  She wears a metal hat, and when she walks outdoors flowers droop around her. When she sings (dear me) the trees shiver. Tom likes to spend his days fooling around, which basically means that he plays. Among other things he likes going through holes in fences, sliding in mud, standing on teetering ladders, and dropping things into rivers.

   Unfortunately, Tom’s aunt does not approve of fooling around, or playing. She warns him that he better stop playing because “Too much playing is not good” and that he should do something useful instead. Tom, not surprisingly, does not stop fooling around. He does eat the horrible food his aunt gives him and he does learn pages from the Nautical Almanac per her demand, but he does not stop fooling around.

   Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Stong keeps an eye on Tom, and when she sees him fooling around again she threatens to send for Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen. She explains that the captain teaches boys like Tom, fooling around boys, a lesson, one that they won’t forget in a hurry.

   Tom keeps on fooling around in spite of his aunt’s threat and sure enough, one day Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen come up the river in a pedal boat. What the captain and Tom’s aunt don’t know is that Tom’s fooling around has prepared him to do all kinds of things.

   Children are going to love this laugh-out-loud funny book with its amusing words and colorful characters. They will be delighted to see how Tom deals with the challenges that thrown at him and how to finds a way to rewrite his own story.