Book Review: The Useful Book My review of this new activity, recipe and art/craft book celebrating…
Caleb’s Cab – Book Review
A quirky book for middle primary students written by Sally Chomet, illustrated by Sylvain Chomet and published by Walker Books.
Also available from Book Depository: Caleb’s Cab
Part speculative fiction, part mystery, Caleb’s Cab tells the story of an alternative England in which banks reign supreme and parents sell their children to work in ATMs in exchange for increasing their home loans to fund their lifestyles. Caleb’s father, a taxi driver, has mysteriously vanished and his flighty mother is being wooed by a nasty bank manager. Caleb knows that unless he can make enough money driving his father’s cab to fund her ever-increasing demands, he might find himself sold to the bank, like most of the other children in his town.
But Caleb’s cab is no ordinary car and Caleb’s world is turned upside down when the cab jumps him into another reality, and discovers that his father is alive – though maybe for not much longer, unless Caleb can save him.
The idea of Caleb’s Cab is intriguing. This odd little story appealed to me, though at first I wasn’t too happy about the nasty characters and depressing world. The scene was certainly set up well and the contrast between the two realities was all the more significant because of it.
The illustrations grew on me. They fit the style of the story well and there were plenty in the book to keep developing readers on track.
The concepts were quite mature, including bullying, child trafficking, kidnap, murder and neglect. But they were handled carefully, and the fantastic elements of the book are overt enough for these concepts not to be too confronting. This is not our world. Besides, stories in this age group need to be both readable and challenging in subject matter, to suit the varied abilities and thought development of the children who’ll be reading them.
I wanted to know what happened in the end; the book ended on a cliff-hanger and I look forward to the next instalment.
While the illustrations suited the book, I didn’t particularly like them. They were in the long, pointed nose, shift-eye style which caricatures baddies, the adults in particular. This is purely personal preference, though, and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.
For a sensitive child, Caleb’s Cab might be too confronting.
Sometimes the plot seems a little too convenient, in my opinion, and the child characters a little too easily able to outsmart the grownups. But that is all part of the unreal world of the story, and trying to make events too real might detract from the escapism that is this story’s best feature.
Our Rating (channelling our love of ice cream, our rating system works the way we like our ice cream: the more scoops the better. Besides, good books should be devoured!
Best = four scoops):
Three scoops! a very enjoyable interlude!
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