Elaine Wickson, illustrated by Chris Judge
As our new Queen of Snort begins her reign we’re heading back in wibbly-wobbly time to 2018 and the beginning of the Stan series. Wowzers: where to start with this LOLLIES-nominated gem of a funny book? A recommendation seems like a good place, so if you know a kid reader with a sense of humour who hasn’t had the pleasure of getting to know Stan yet then they have a treat in store. This book is not only the cat’s pyjamas but the bee’s knees and probably the wasp’s winkie, too. Packed with hilarious characters – an especial shout out to the brilliant small-year-olds, Fred and Flossie – crack-you-up one liners, and studded with witty charts and graphs, it thoroughly earns its author her royal crown.
Our eponymous hero, space-obsessed Stan, is both cursed and blessed with a younger bruv – the bogey-smearing, plant-pot-widdling, blush-causing and utterly brilliant Fred. Encumbered by this small force of nature, Stan’s plans for winning a telescope in an inter-school science competition seem doomed. Even more so because along with Jess, his team includes his best mate, Liam, whose only interest in life is crisps, as well as pop-and-locking freestyle dance sensation, Gemma. All by itself, this storyline has enough mayhem to keep readers chuckling, but Queen Elaine the Generous throws in a parallel plot, too, involving Fred’s love of fossil dinosaur, Rory. With police involvement, a smarmy museum director, a mother in desperate need of Mum Time and a completely barmy pirate queen running amok, the story lines become as tangled as Stan’s feelings for his little brother all the way to the satisfying end. No spoilers, but Wickson follows a classic comedy trajectory. The story descends into grin-while-you-turn-the-pages chaos but – pheww – everything works out for the best.
Planet Stan has so many strong points it’s difficult to point to any one aspect that makes this book such a great – and hilarious – read.
The writing is truly excellent – Queen Elaine skips lightly between the interweaving plot lines and never loses control of her story in all the chaos. The dialogue snaps, the jokes keep coming and the characters are expertly drawn, each with their own endearing eccentricities. As a reader I loved ALL the Fox family, especially cake-punk Gran (cake-punk should totally be a thing, by the way - like steam-punk but more battenburgy). There are genuine d’aww heartstring-tugging moments, too: all the more effective for being sparely deployed at exactly the right moments. These help elevate Planet Stan from a merely gag-a-thon romp into a treasure. As if all that weren’t enough, Elaine threads the story through with genuinely fascinating space facts, making them chuckle-inducingly pertinent to the story.
And then there are the graphs and charts – from an easy-to-consult side-bar on every page, which measures Stan’s emotional state on a scale of Black-Hole-of-Doom to Over-the-Moon, to a Periodic Table of Bruvness. These add a highly original touch and make Planet Stan a proper stand-out book.
Let’s summarise then: Planet Stan is flippin’ marvellous. Quirky, original, touching and – above all – funny, funny, funny. Her Majesty, Queen Elaine clearly has a bright and lively imagination and serious comedy chops. Planet Stan is for defs going up on the Snort Wall of Fame. One warning though: while reading, don’t eat anything you don’t want to see shooting back out of your nose.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Full disclosure: This book was sent for an honest review by OUP, who also publish my books and have been great supporters of Snort. Honestly, I hadn’t clocked this. Elaine had to point it out to me after I’d already asked her to be Snort Queen!