42 Word Retrospectives

Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes

Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes by Nils-Olof Franzén; ill. Quentin Blake (André Deutsch, 1972) [From the Swedish Agaton Sax och den bortkomne mr Lispington, 1966] There’s plenty of fun to be had following Swedish super sleuth Agaton Sax in his masterly pursuit of the world’s most dastardly criminals. The focus on bureaucratic filibuster and a sequence of muddles…

After the Goat Man

After the Goat Man by Betsy Byars (The Bodley Head, 1974) A remarkable middle grade novel. By delving deep into the protagonists’ wistful ruminations—especially poor overweight Harold’s—Byars not only guides her characters to a precocious philosophical maturity (cf. Peanuts) but also holds the reader’s attention despite there being almost no plot.    

The Stranger, Series 1

The Stranger, Series 1 by G. K. Saunders; dir. Gil Brealey (ABC, 1964) Early Australian SF. A cagey alien befriends three schoolchildren while seeking refugee status for his people. The Stranger is played seriously and contrives across six episodes (particularly through its incidental music) to maintain a sense of ambiguity vis-à-vis the extra-terrestrials’ true intentions.    

The Complete Peanuts: 1993 to 1994

The Complete Peanuts: 1993 to 1994 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics Books, 2014) Spurred perhaps by Rerun’s belated coming of age, Schulz bestows upon the Peanuts gang some nice little touches of character growth (Charlie Brown’s more active pursuit of the Little Red-Haired Girl, for instance). Unfortunately, his once-consummate penmanship is starting to look shaky.    

Lucky Luke: Billy the Kid

Lucky Luke: Billy the Kid by Morris & Goscinny, trans. Luke Spear (Cinebook Ltd, 2006) [Original French language version published in Spirou magazine, 1962] Morris’ illustrations are as playful as ever but Goscinny’s script lacks the usual sparkle, overmuch being made of the central conceit (ie. that notorious outlaw Billy the Kid is an actual child) and in-story repetitions similar…

A Lemon-Yellow Elephant called Trunk

A Lemon-Yellow Elephant called Trunk by Barbara Softly; ill. Tony Veale (Chatto, Boyd & Oliver, 1971) What seems at first a tale of whimsy turns instead into a rather clumsily executed parable of individual worth and acceptance. Thankfully Tony Veale draws a creditable elephant (and round-snouted giraffes). The floating artwork and limited use of colours leave an impression.