Week-end Book Review: The Diary of Amos Lee: Girls, Guts and Glory by Adeline Foo, illustrated by Stephanie WongSaturday, August 6th, 2011
Adeline Foo, illustrated by Stephanie Wong,
The Diary of Amos Lee: Girls, Guts and Glory
Epigram (Singapore), 2009.
The Diary of Amos Lee: Girls, Guts and Glory is the second of three stories (so far) in Adeline Foo’s immensely popular series that charts Amos’ last three years at primary school. Amos writes his diary when he’s in the toilet, “to get away from my troubles”. Among other things, his troubles involve a bully Michael; what he considers betrayal in his friend Alvin making friends with a new girl, Somaly, who has recently arrived from Cambodia; and his annoying little sister WPI (that’s Whiny, Pesky and Irritating) bringing home a stray cat.
Of course, these and all the other situations disentangle themselves satisfactorily – Michael finally recognises the value of his team-mates, including Amos; Somaly not only becomes a friend but also an inspiration; and far from wanting rid of Tom the cat, Amos ends up as “official guardian of the world’s first three-legged cat” – it’s a long story! Along the way, Amos welcomes a new brother into the family. Amos and another friend, Anthony,also put together a science magazine: the first issue about reproduction in spiders and humans sells out; the second, about Tom’s adventures, is not quite so universally popular but certainly has its fans, too. And throughout, there is swimming training.
Amos Lee’s voice is both credible and hilarious, his concerns real and often touching. As well as the date, each entry has a heading, which emphasises the short, chapter-like bites of text. This would be a great book for reluctant readers, especially boys. Amos is curious and at times deliberately naughty, but he is also a very motivated child, and this motivation may well rub off on readers. No matter how hard he tries, Amos can’t keep his diary hidden from his mother, so her voice comes through intermittently, with comments and spelling corrections. Rather than being interfering, this helps to establish the solidity of Amos’ relationship with his family.
The book is well laid out, with different fonts and text sizes. Stephanie Wong’s expressive, often comical illustrations are dotted throughout, adding sparkle and further dynamism to the story. Wong’s facial expressions are very funny, and their variety is neatly offset by the very cute Tom’s repertoire of two – awake and asleep.
Adeline Foo has created a laugh-out-loud, un-put-downable book. Young readers will love Amos Lee’s Diaries, and their parents will like them too – if they can get a look in!