The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler was written by Paul Collins, and published by Celapene Press, 2009. I interviewed Paul, who has had two Notable Books in the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards, on The Book Chook recently. I was intrigued by what he had to say about his latest novel, in particular the character who spoke in malapropisms.
Toby's mum has been missing for more than a month. His new friend, Ginger, has lost her dad. So how can an abandoned red shoe, an unusual plan and map coordinates help them in their search for their parents?
And why is everyone looking for Toby?
I guess the book title should have hinted to me that Toby Chrysler doesn't have a normal life. After reading this novel, I am here to say "slightly skewed" doesn't begin to cover it. Toby, (or Milo to others, because he's not exactly Quik) lurches from one misadventure to another until we are left gasping and wondering if he will ever recover. Toby is one of those people who mean well, but somehow stuff just happens to him.
Collins knows that kids want action and he gives it to them. Any young person who has ever wondered if he is slightly different, will relate to Toby who didn't mean to kill Mrs Appleby next door, and especially not twice. Collins produces quirky characters by the bin-full - some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, but all will grab your attention and refuse to let it go.
This would make a great book to offer young teens. There is wry humour as well as slapstick humour, plenty of action, and yet the book is thought-provoking too. Why and how does our society discriminate against anyone who is "different"? Is telling the truth always the answer? Why would a mother leave her own child, anyway?
And those malapropisms? Toby's friend Phuc mangles the English language with expressions like "the best laid plans of lice and men", and I think kids will enjoy them as much as I did.