Mr Planemaker's Flying Machine by Shelagh Watkins

Mr. Planemaker's Flying Machine - Shelagh Watkins

Amazon Freebie, which I've had for a while, but didn't read until the author's name seemed to come up rather often lately. I didn't realise this was a kid's book until I actually read it, it's not clear from the blurb at all (which mostly consists of a copy/pasted review anyway, and now that I read closely does mention it's a children's book about four paragraphs in).

 

Kid's book, DNF. Got about 20% in and gave up, for lots of reasons. 

 

 

The plot contains serious inconsistencies. For instance in the first chapter, the protagonist has had to rest "since his operation two years ago" but only a few pages later, it mentions he made a complete recovery after the operation and returned to working full time on building sites, and only recently relapsed and had to take early retirement. That's the kind of thing my kids would have jumped on. The timeline is difficult to follow too, at one point I had to read back several pages to figure out why he was having two breakfasts in a row (in fact an entire day had passed.) Not that I especially care if someone wants to eat breakfast twice, but when it's distracting from the plot, there's a problem with the storytelling.

 

There are some very curious word choices and phrasing, for a book by an English author and set in England (Freeways? really?)

 

There are some terrifically pun-a-licious names (Ann Arkeytekt, Wizz Kid etc) which are something of a plot point, but they would be a lot funnier if characters didn't seem to need to point them out explicitly, as if the author needs a cookie for having been so clever.

 

There's also an issue of pitch. It's difficult to guess what age this is directed at, the author doesn't say, but I'm going to guess around the age of the children in the story: 7 and 8. If that's the case, the extended explanation about their dad's business problems, retirement, etc, seem pitched too old.

 

Finally, the characters are too stereotypical. The mummy, who is very matter of fact, and takes care of the children and organizes their breakfasts and schoolbags (because the daddy couldn't possibly do that?) The daddy who is very smart, and it's not his fault he can't work anymore. The son who is loud and plays computer games and watches cartoons, the daughter who does neither of these things, but is quiet enough to be allowed in the living room while her daddy rests on the sofa. There's no particular reason the daughter couldn't be the computer wiz, and the son the quiet bookish artist. There's no reason both kids couldn't be into cartoons, drawing and computers in equal measure. It's a small thing, but it matters - and it makes the book read like it was written in the fifties. If it had been, the gender and role stereotyping would be forgiveable, but in a modern day book, it's seems lazy.