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The Man Who Wore All His Clothes - Allan Ahlberg

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Author: Allan Ahlberg / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 03 May 2012 / Genre: Children's General Fiction / Publisher: Walker Books Ltd / Title: The Man Who Wore All His Clothes / ISBN 13: 9781406341553 / ISBN 10: 1406341553 / Alternative EAN: 9780744589955

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    4 Reviews
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      03.01.2013 11:44
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      Another great children's book from Allan Ahlberg

      One morning Mr Gaskitt gets up and puts on all his clothes. There is no explanation as to why he needs three shirts, two pairs of trousers, four jumpers and several coats but the reader is able to witness his bizarre transformation from slim man to ludicrously bulky man in the space of half a dozen pages. Just what is Mr Gaskitt up to? Is he feeling cold, is he mad, or is there method in his madness?

      Allan Ahlberg sparks the reader's curiosity from the outset. Nobody is going to want to stop reading until they have found out why Mr Gaskitt is wearing all his clothes and that means reading through to the end. It's therefore a great book for spurring on reluctant young readers by keeping them guessing. If children are really observant, they may be able to pick up some clues along the way.

      Meanwhile, Mrs Gaskitt gives a lift in her taxi to a man who turns out to be a bank robber. The Gaskitt twins, Gus and Gloria witness their teacher fall off a ladder at school and then get lumbered with an eccentric supply teacher called Mr Blotter. As for Horace the family cat, he spends a day at a feline friend's house watching TV. It quickly becomes apparent that the Gaskitts are a rather quirky bunch and that life is not going to be dull when they are around.

      The narrative moves swiftly along, presenting quick snapshots of what is happening in the lives of the various Gaskitt family members on the day in question. One minute we are focussing on Mr Gaskitt, then we switch to Mrs Gaskitt, then to the twins, then to Horace. At first there are four separate stories going on simultaneously, but eventually these stories start to merge together, culminating in an exciting and amusing, high-speed chase to catch the robber. Which of the Gaskitts will save the day?

      True to form, Allan Ahlberg has delivered a creative, unpredictable and slightly crazy story for children. What I particularly love is that, as in another favourite of mine, The Runaway Dinner, Ahlberg turns inanimate objects into characters in the story. The Car Radio, for instance, is a key character in the story. It is particularly chatty but has a habit of getting things badly wrong. Watch out for the refrigerator and the traffic lights too and my favourite of all - the lorry loaded with Christmas trees that yells - "STAND CLEAR! I AM REVERSING! BEEP, BEEP!" - and then, when it is lying on its side, blocking the road - "I AM TERRIBLY SORRY!"

      I love books like this because they push the boundaries of the imagination. Why shouldn't you have a talking lorry or a refrigerator that can spell? Anything is possible in fiction. It inspires children to be creative and to think 'outside the box' in their own projects.

      I think this book is most suitable for children aged 6 to 8 years. At 77 pages it is quite long for a children's book, but there are illustrations on each page. Also the print is quite large and well-spaced out, so it does not look too daunting on the page. Although I do miss the illustrations of Allan Ahlberg's late wife, Janet, I can't fault Katharine McEwen's pictures either. They are colourful, clear and expressive and complement the text perfectly. The book is divided into 11 short chapters. I think the use of chapters works well because it makes children feel that they are reading a more grown-up book, which is good for building confidence.

      The language is not complex. Allan Ahlberg uses repetition - "The children couldn't catch him......The police couldn't catch him.....Mrs Gaskitt couldn't catch him", etc. - which is helpful to young readers as they start to spot patterns in sentence structure. I also think this book provides a good opportunity for children to expand their core vocabularies. For example, they can learn a lot of different clothing words and a lot of different transport words from this book.

      The book reminded me of Allan Ahlberg's much-loved classic, Burglar Bill. Just as Burglar Bill is a comic burglar who steals cakes and tins of beans, the robber in this book is a comic villain too. I think adults would love reading this to their children because it is such a great spoof on real crime. There is a wonderful moment where the robber is chased in and out of a supermarket, up and down escalators, into lifts and into a pizza parlour, where he grabs a deep pan extra pepperoni pizza as he goes. A bank robber munching on pizza as he is trying to make his getaway is as ridiculous as Burglar Bill selling his house and giving the money to the Police Benevolent Fund. If only real life was as innocent as this - but at least with stories like this, we can pretend for a short time that it is.

      Horace the cat deserves a paragraph all of his own. Sometimes we see him walking around on all fours like a normal cat, but at other times he takes on distinctly human traits. In one picture we see him sitting up in the arm chair, drinking from a glass with a straw. It's the combination of cat traits and human traits that makes Horace so endearing. We see him watching a food ad for Crunchy Mice and we also see him getting his hankie out when he is watching a sad old movie. In true cat style, Horace thinks that the rest of the family live in his house.

      There are lots of twists and turns in this adventure and lots of opportunities for an adult, reading the book aloud to children, to invite them to think what might happen next. For example, when we first meet Mrs Gaskitt's gruff-voiced passenger and she asks him where he wants to go, he replies, "As far away as possible." Many children will be able to spot that there is something a bit dodgy about him. What might he have in that enormous bag that he is carrying? What will happen when the robber hitches a lift on the school bus? Of course, part of the fun is that sometimes your guess will be wrong and events take a totally unexpected course.

      There are plenty of surprises. Children can also have lots of fun spotting the things that the dozy Car Radio gets so blatantly wrong. For example, when the Radio reports - "THE ROBBER IS HIDING AWAY IN HIS SECRET DEN EATING EGG, CHIPS AND BEANS", children who are following the story know that this could not be further from the truth.

      Without doubt this is a warm, feel-good story. It's about a family being heroic for a day and then just reverting to normality. In the real world where have-a-go heroes are likely to get stabbed to death, it's rather touching to see the Gaskitts watching a movie and eating popcorn together on the sofa at the end of their dramatic day. Unrealistic? Misleading? Maybe, but we all need escapism and the book is a nice reminder that heroes are to be find amongst ordinary people.

      It's nice to see the family working together as a team to catch the bank robber and, although most young readers won't have experienced such a thing, they can probably think of plenty of examples where family members have to support each other and not just think of their individual interests. So although it isn't a book with a preachy moral message, it certainly invites discussion on such topics as public spirited behaviour, family loyalties, pro-social and antisocial behaviour etc.

      This is a delightful book and I would certainly recommend it. It is the first in a series of books about The Gaskitts. Used copies are available from Amazon for a mere £0.01. If the Gaskitts prove a hit, other books in the series include The Woman Who Won Things, The Children who Smelled a Rat and The Cat Who Got Carried Away. You will end up wishing this family could move in next door to you.

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        30.12.2009 19:48
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        A book both children and adults will love.

        I bought this book for my son for christmas along with another great children's book by Allan Ahlberg 'The Runaway Dinner'.

        Allan Ahlberg does what he does best in 'The Man who wore all his Clothes' - and that it is to create a highly amusing and entertaining tale using everyday characters that have strange quirks and lives.

        The book is seperated into eleven chapters, each varying in length from 4 - 10 pages. Ideal for bedtime reading with children, as you can read one or two chapters each night and keep your little ones intrigued and desperate to know what happens next.

        Essentially the main character of the story is Mr Gaskitt, who at the beginning of the tale puts on all his clothes as the title suggests. But his family are also fundamental to the book, Mrs Gaskitt a taxi driver recieves a phonecall to collect a man outside a bank - who turns out to be a robber! And the Gaskitt children, Gus and Gloria have trouble with a teacher.

        There are lots of little things that capture children's imaginations and keep them engaged with the story, like Horace the cat ( white with orange spots!) who talks and goes to watch TV with his friend. Aswell as a rather troublesome car radio that never gets things right.

        I love the illustrations in this book too, they are by Katherine McEwen and are colorful, amusing and attentive to detail, from Horace the cat's facial expressions to Gloria's bunny slippers.

        All in all, this is a charming book to enjoy with your children.

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        21.05.2009 22:58

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        an appealing & funny book

        Allan Ahlberg is the much loved & prolific children's author whose creations include the Jolly Postman, Peepo! & Burglar Bill.
        The Man Who Wore... is divided into mini chapters. In Chapter One he puts on ALL his clothes, to his family's great approval ("Don't forget your hats, Dear," said Mrs Gaskett). But why? We have to read to the very end of the book to find out, in the course of which all the family in different ways encounter a fleeing bank robber & chaos ensues. Will anyone stop the robber?
        This book will appeal to children who enjoy Ahlberg's Slow Dog stories: the bite-sized chunks of text dotted around bright, simple illustrations are very similar & make it an approachable read. The dry humour is similar too & it's a really funny book throughout. There's the car radio that gets its words wrong, the fridge that's a good speller, the teacher who has his pupils tying themselves in knots & not to mention the poor bank robber trapped on the school bus with a classful of children!

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        30.11.2008 20:43
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        A great book for kids.

        My kids and I really enjoyed this book. Allan Ahlberg is a brilliant writer: his characters are charming and interesting, his books have great plots, and there are loads of funny little details.

        In this one, the car radio keeps getting things wrong, wishing everyone a Happy Easter (it's not Easter!). A reversing truck says 'I am reversing. I am reversing. I am tipping over.' Mr Gaskitt does indeed wear all his clothes, and it's only at the end that we find out why. Mrs Gaskitt is in danger. Gus and Gloria's teacher is away, and they have a terrifying substitute teacher. In other words, it's like every other Gaskitt book.

        This is one you can read to them over and over without wanting to tear it up and throw it out the window, which is frankly an achievement! We really all enjoyed it.

        I'd recommend this book for reading to kids from the age of 3 or 4. They also enjoy reading it to themselves, when bigger. It's got quite a few words, so it's not ideal for them to flick through on their own, but still interesting for them.

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    • Product Details

      One morning Mr Gaskitt puts on all his clothes, Mrs Gaskitt picks up a robber in her taxi, Gus and Gloria have trouble with a teacher. Horace the cat goes to a friend's house to watch TV and the car radio gets things wrong. But then what happens? And why does Mr. Gaskitt wear all his clothes? Find out in this action-packed, fun-filled day in the life of the Gaskitt family.