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Description - The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins

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?

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780975074244
ISBN-10: 0975074245
Format: Paperback / softback
(198mm x 128mm x mm)
Pages: 142
Imprint: Celapene Press
Publisher: Celapene Press
Publish Date: 1-Nov-2009
Country of Publication: Australia

Book Reviews - The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins

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Book Review: Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins - Reviewed by (27 Jul 2010)

Paul Collins is an award winning author best known for his work on The Quentaris Chronicles, The Jelindel Chronicles, The Worlds of Grrym and The Earthborn Wars. In this junior fiction novel, Paul’s fun and likeable characters barrel their way through a fast-paced and entertaining series of events as Toby endeavours to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his mother.

This book’s cover immediately attracts, with its quirky lettering and a photographed protagonist (with goofy smile) posed in a street of bright, cartoon drawn houses. Readers, however, will quickly learn how rattled Toby (AKA Milo) is by his mother’s disappearance when he finds a single red shoe in her wardrobe. “Half a pair wasn’t a pair … Halves were ugly. Halves were – orphans.” Then the action begins, as a determined Milo searches for his mother.

And this is where things really become skewed as Milo, at times assisted by his only friend, Fluke, leaves a dead clairvoyant and some very puzzled detectives in his wake. Fluke and Milo contact the clairvoyant via a séance to gain clues to help them. Despite being under suspicion for murder, Milo continues searching on the sly. (It’s hard to play detective when detectives are watching you.) Enter Ginger, who has lost her dad, and the mystery gains even more momentum.

Milo’s task is further complicated by having to prevent the insulin dependent Ginger from dying. Oh, what a tangled web! One that ends with a soap opera style twist that I cannot divulge. You will have to read the story to find that out.

Throughout the book, Fluke’s comically butchered interpretations of well-known proverbs, quotes and phrases had me laughing out loud. Such a deluded character. His versions of sayings provide creative chapter headings and a glossary at the book’s end will help younger readers to get the humour, perhaps seeing them going back for a second reading of the story.

Book Review: Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins - Reviewed by (27 Jul 2010)

Toby, or Milo as he’s known (because he isn’t Quik), doesn’t process the world in quite the same way as the rest of us. He likes order, and items numbered in specific configurations. But that’s not to say he isn’t intelligent; he is. And not only that, he has powers of deduction and is capable of coming up with plans of action that Bart Simpson would envy. Oh yes, Milo is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to problem solving.

One morning, Milo’s well-ordered life changes when his mum fails to turn up at breakfast. Dad has no answers—none he’s willing to share with Milo at any rate—so, the only thing to do is find the answers himself. After searching his mother’s room and coming up with a lone red shoe, Milo is determined to reunite it with its pair, and in so doing, hopefully find his mother. After consulting with best friend Fluke, Milo visits his bedridden neighbour, Mrs Appleby, who is supposedly a psychic, and asks her to divine the whereabouts of his missing parent. What follows is one mishap after another: a dead neighbour, a police chase, or two, a new friend, kidnapping, a medical emergency and generally lots of mayhem.

This story has a number of things going for it, but by far the stand out here is Milo, who, despite his impaired cognition and seemingly endless run of adversity, steadfastly rallies with good humour and optimism. To Milo, every problem has a solution. It’s that simple. And it’s that simplicity that makes this character shine.

The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler subtly explores the importance of family, belonging, friendship and acceptance. Although generally treated as a freak by his peers, Milo merely shrugs off this negativity and gives the only thing he has to give: himself. A worthy lesson here for us all.

Collins has carved a comfortable niche over the years, becoming well-known for his grunty character-driven fantasy and SF. While the genre may have changed, all the elements he does so well are present here: Excellent characterisation, action, humour, honesty and emotional depth. With all the insightfulness and wisdom of Mark Haddon’s, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and the wacky logic and humour of, Dennis the Menace, this story is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Book Review: Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins - Reviewed by (21 Jan 2010)

Paul Collins works very hard not to label Toby, the hero of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler (Celapene Press). The dedication is ‘to all the Tobys of the world – you know who you are’ and the enthusiastic endorsements on the back cover (one by Metzenthen) do not mention a label either. It will be enough to say that it reminded me very much of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Haddon) though it is not written in the first person as that was, but you do see though Toby’s eyes, through his perspective, understand his way of thinking – and see where his lack of understanding of what other people are thinking, leads to. The beginning is arresting: ‘It wasn’t even five o’clock and Milo had already murdered Mrs Appleby. Twice.’ We soon discover how this happened – and that Toby can’t see the complications. Isn’t telling the truth enough? Toby is also astounded to learn that not everyone can count things instantaneously just by looking at them (there are three pieces missing from Ginger’s jigsaw, for instance). Toby gets into muddles, through not predicting what people will say and think. He meets Ginger, whose Dad is missing, just as Toby’s mum is. He knows he will be sent to a juvenile detention centre after this court case, so he has only hours to find his mum. She is the only person who really understands him, the person who has spent hours coaching him so that he can interpret people’s facial expressions, for instance. He suspects he will never see her again if he can’t find her before he goes to jail. The trail leads to Ginger who sets out to help him. The anxiously smiling, bemused boy photographed on the front cover, for once really reflects the character of Toby (how often covers are merely decoration and tell nothing).


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