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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that author-illustrator L. Pichon’s Tom Gates series is a funny look at the everyday life of a kid who tries to get away with the bare minimum at school and home so he can focus on the things he loves: drawing, his band, and tormenting his older sister, Delia. Ten-year-old Tom is the goodhearted kid that drives parents and teachers crazy: He’s a talented and creative artist, a quick-witted prankster, and a carefree soul completely uninterested in doing any work at school or home that takes away from his own interests. Tom’s engaging illustrations throughout each book pack a goofiness on every page and give context for young readers working on their vocabulary. The illustrations and humor also make this series a great choice for reluctant readers. Originally published in the United Kingdom, each book has at the end a “British to American” English glossary.
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What's the story?
In the TOM GATES series, 10-year-old Tom’s top priorities are the band he and his best friend Derek started, drawing pictures on any paper he can find (most often his schoolwork), and annoying his older sister, Delia. Tom always means to do his work, but is so easily distracted that he’s always scrambling to finish or making up excuses why he didn’t. Tom’s excuses are legendary, and his teacher plays along, responding to his “I was attacked by an animal and had only my homework binder to defend myself so my paper was eaten” excuse with a note back that that he’s happy no one was hurt and to please turn in homework on Monday. Tom’s dreams of becoming a rock superstar are stalled only by the fact that the band needs a drummer and a gig and to write a hit song, and that Tom still has that pesky school thing to deal with. Surely his mild crush Amy or his in-class doodling aren't the source of his school problems; it’s his nemesis Marcus that’s standing between Tom and rock 'n' roll greatness.
Is it any good?
Tom’s eye-catching illustrations on every page and the fun, doodle-filled text throughout make this a fast, engaging series for readers transitioning to longer chapter books, but it's so much more. The Tom Gates series will connect with any kid who's ever tried to get out of doing homework, dreamed up creative excuses why they aren’t turning it in, or wondered why they had to go to school when all they really wanted to do was their favorite hobby. The teacher’s patience for Tom’s written excuses is touching. He plays along with Tom, and in doing so gives Tom a trusted connection with an adult who gives him space to be himself while still maintaining high expectations for Tom and his work. It’s nice for readers to see that respect between teacher and student: Tom doesn’t push too far and never means to be truly bad, and the teacher knows that every child is different and gives kids room to be themselves.
Tom’s relationship with his sister Delia can get needlessly antagonistic – he goes out of his way to bother her – but he does it in with a grin, never meaning real harm. In short, Tom Gates is the reflection of many of the readers who hold these books.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the humor and prankster spirit in the Tom Gates series. What makes Tom so appealing? What other books have you read that have characters like Tom?
Do you think Tom Gates should get away with his homework excuses? Is it fair that his teacher gives him so many chances?
What do you think about how Tom treats his sister, Delia? Does it seem typical of brothers and sisters?
- Author: L. Pichon
- Illustrator: L. Pichon
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: August 4, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 30, 2019
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