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Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey

Posted on Jul 13, 2011

Mini Grey
(Jonathan Cape)

Traction Man and his faithful sidekick Scrubbing Brush are back for a new adventure, and this time they are venturing out on a holiday at the seaside! Traction Man is looking the part in his Squid-Proof Scuba suit and is ready to explore the secret crevices of the Rockpool. But Truffles, Granny’s new pet dog has other ideas and thanks his over-enthusiasm, Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush find themselves stranded at sea then washed away by a giant wave … thank fully, help is at hand, and from the rescue operation Traction Man makes a most unlikely encounter and an even more unlikely friendship seems to be developing. Is Traction Man a softie at heart?

How I love Traction Man! Now in his third adventure, there is no relenting in the pace and overall enjoyment of the action figure’s stories.  It is still just as hilarious, wacky and so utterly British! 
The Traction Man series will appeal primarily to boys because of the nature of its hero. Any boy who loves acting out stories with his Big Jim-type toy (I am showing my age here) will be delighted with Traction Man’s adventures. But this also offers a great opportunity to entice young children to have a look at books, especially if they are reluctant to engage with reading or being read to, especially if they own a similar toy.
Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey introduces a new character, Barbie-style doll Brenda, and although she is not quite the dumb-blonde that her attire might suggest, she will undoubtedly attract a new readership to the series. My daughter, previously uninterested in the series (as opposed to her brother who has been a fan since the first book came out), was willing to give it a try all of a sudden, and it was quite interesting to witness how differently they reacted to Brenda. My son, obviously older, really saw the irony within the character, but I think it was lost on my daughter who is, quite frankly, used to “sick pink” toys! Nevertheless, this is a great way to introduce girls to this fantastic series.

The comic-strip layout of the artwork helps to emphasise the “superhero” theme of the story, and Mini Grey’s immediately recognisable style suits the dynamic story perfectly. There are so many details in the artwork (and similarly in the two previous Traction Man stories), it is definitely the kind of illustrations that little readers will revel in poring over.  Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey is really extremely comical and so very witty. It allows for some great reading-aloud and brings fantastic funny voices opportunities (Zoe favours Sean Connery, mine is more of a X-factor style voice-over!). The humour works on so many levels, which is great for adult readers. How can you not laugh when you read this:

“It’s nearly 6 o’clock and Brenda is wearing her floral party suit and shimmering headscarf. But although her outfit is fully accessorised, her mind is in turmoil”.

To me, this quote (my favourite of the whole book) illustrates the tone of the whole story perfectly. And when text of this quality is teamed up with such great artwork, you can see why Traction Man is such a favourite in the Library Mice household!

Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey is a great adventure story for little boys who love their superheroes. While parents might worry about the violent side of playing with such action figures, they can rest assured that Traction Man is nothing but a perfect gentleman, and even in the midst of the most treacherous situations, there is always a last-minute bounce back and a positive message. If I was to suggest one picture book series for energetic little five year-olds, this would always be my first choice (but don’t let that put you off  because I am a yoga-practising 36 year-old female, and I am Traction Man’s number one fan!)!

All illustrations  © Mini Grey

Many thanks to Random House Children’s Books for sending me a review copy of “Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey”.

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2 Comments

  1. Super review Melanie! Wish I had written it :-) Absolutely right about new audiences with Beach time Brenda.

  2. Zoe, you are too kind :0)
    It is easy to write a review about such a great book.

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