Preston Pig is a charming and somewhat lucky character who features in quite a few of Colin McNaughton's picture books. In Oomph!, Preston and his family go to the seaside for their holiday where he makes a new little friend called Max. They have great fun together all week but are blissfully unaware that there is someone a bit sinister lurking in the background. With this book, as well as reading the words, make sure that you pay close attention to the illustrations where there is a slightly different story being told.
Preston Pig and his family are extremely excited about their holiday and set off to the seaside with their car piled up with all their luggage and all the paraphernalia that a beach holiday requires. What they do not realise is that they have a stowaway who has climbed on to the top of the car. When they arrive, Preston has a great time on the beach playing with his new friend Maxine (Max), making sandcastles, exploring rock pools, snorkelling and other fun activities. However, they never seem to spot a sinister figure who is lurking in the background, obviously up to no good. This sinister character is actually Mister Wolf who has often been seen trying to nab Preston to turn him into sausages in all of the books. As always, he is thwarted in his attempts which is very fortunate for Preston and Max. It is only when Preston and his family are packed and ready to leave that Max points out that there is a wolf on the roof rack but Preston thinks that she is only joking!
If you only pay attention to the words, Oomph! is a very basic story told in quite a simplistic way. However, it is the illustrations that tell the more exciting true story with Mister Wolf trailing after the little piglets with obvious menace on his mind. As they are enjoying the different activities each day, he is always there somewhere, but something always seems to happen to prevent him catching his prey. He slips on the rocks; falls down the big hole Preston and Max have dug and gets bombarded by a shoal of fish when snorkelling. All of the illustrations tell the alternative story well and with a great deal of humour.
In fact, I like the illustrations more than I like the written story. It is a very basic tale and the sentence structure and vocabulary are pretty basic too. There is quite a bit of dialogue, but rather than using a variety of verbs when the characters are talking, the writer predominantly uses the word 'said'. On one double page where speech is used a lot, the word 'said' is used no less than eleven times and that is every time someone speaks. I think the books that young children read should provide wonderful examples of vocabulary which they could learn to use, but they are not going to be able to do that with this book. Also, the simple sentence structure seems to restrict any rhythm, and the story felt quite stilted as my daughter and I were reading it aloud. In its favour though, as the language is so simple, early readers are likely to read it by themselves quite easily.
Therefore although I like the idea behind the story and we all love the illustrations, I feel that this book lacks the quality of writing that is found in many good quality picture books. It is worth sharing with your child because of the clever pictures but probably not more than once.
'Oomph!' is currently available on Amazon for £5.39.
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk