'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Review: The Truth About My Unbelievable School

This little book caught my eye when I visited Melbourne and browsed through one of its fabulous bookstores not only because of its smaller, unusual format but mainly because of the vintage inky cover created by Benjamin Chaud – a beautiful red dragon holding two children and a dog in its mouth. Like them, I was hooked!

The alluring title had me immediately fishing my money out of my handbag; Davide Cali’s hilarious, humour - filled story seriously distracting me from the book launch I was actually there to attend – sorry, my bad!!

Commonly enough, the story starts off with a teacher asking the main character Henry to show his new classmate around school. We will never find out this little girl’s name but she looks harmless enough with her massive fringe so off we go with them on a trip throughout this mysterious school.

Chaud decorates his story with a tone of understatement throughout. The first thing Henry and his puppy show the new girl is the class pet – a massive, page filling, jelly fish but apparently ‘there really isn’t much to see’ so why would we get excited.
We continue further to meet the maths teacher who has a striking resemblance to Albert Einstein. Nobody understands his complex equations anyway so on we walk.

Among other curious things, there is an amazing secret science experiment taking place, while a couple of pages further on we are faced with the most amazing treehouse on the oval. It even features a roller coaster but again, there ‘really isn’t anything to see here’.
By now, it is lunch time and we make our way to my personally favourite page – the cafeteria. A most wondrous contraption with lots of buttons and scales squirts out a yellow substance in all directions and we are informed that the food usually isn’t too bad but there are sometimes problems with the mashed potatoes.
After lunch, Henry guides us through a Hogwarts-like library, past the all-controlling creepy janitor handling his dashboard of spy cameras, past the dragon’s den and the magic-performing principal until we reach the end of a seemingly normal school day and bid the teacher farewell. I am sure you will enjoy the final twist of this beautiful little story at the pickup-zone just as much as I did but I will obviously not spoil the surprise. Just watch out for the little girl’s fringe and her mother’s means of transport….

This book is perfect for older school children who like wizards, spy stories and secrets. It is visually very appealing due to the striking machine, architecture and creature illustrations in coloured ink, thus boosting imagination. Plus, on every new page there are interesting details to discover for both children and adults alike – for example the already mentioned Albert Einstein lookalike or the PE teacher who reminds me of a certain Swedish girl in stripy socks…

 It is quite simply a little jewel of a book, full of fun and quirkiness, that might work wonders on kids for whom school has lost its fun and help remind them what a magical place it really can be.
Title: The Truth About My Unbelievable School
Author: Davide Cali
Illustrator: Benjamin Chaud
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: 1February 2018
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781452155944
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book