06 December 2009

The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler

by Paul Collins

Celapene Press. Australian, Junior Fiction. Paperback rrp $14.95

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Toby (nicknamed Milo) and his only friend Fluke are highly individual boys whose perception of the world differs to that of other people, and are seen as strange, even stupid. Their areas of knowledge are unusual and impressive, but they struggle when translating life and adult talk. Fluke’s entertaining and ‘creative’ way of using the English language is an itch that is constantly scratched and this impresses Milo, who sees Fluke as the smartest person he knows.
Milo’s mum has been gone for a month. She left with the postman, and his dad hasn’t been coping well with the loss added to all the things he’s unable to do. Influenced by a TV program on psychic detectives, Milo decides to visit the bed-bound, former psychic, Mrs Appleby next door, to get some insight into where his mother might be. He takes his mum’s single red shoe with him to help spark the reading.

But his regular run of bad luck escalates when Mrs Appleby dies after the reading and Milo is apprehended by police for having caused her death. Finding his mother before he’s charged becomes an obsession with him. He feels he has a good chance with some map coordinates that Mrs Appleby gave him before her last gasp that should lead him to her whereabouts.

Things become more complicated when he discovers Ginger’s dad is also missing and that he is the postman. Outrageous schemes are churned over and over in Ginger and Milo’s mind; schemes that will force his mum and her dad to come home. For being outrageous seems logical to an innocent mind, and at these times, being different can give a person an edge.

Collins has the gift of great insight when creating children’s characters. This is an interesting, humorous, and highly entertaining story about being different and surviving family break-up in which dialogue and characters prove to be everything. The book is aimed at age 8+.

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