Captain Toby was originally published as part of the Spooky Surprise series but has been reissued with additional illustrations. It is written by Satoshi Kitamura who has written books such as Stone Age Boy and The Smile Shop, as well as illustrating books for John Agard and Roger McGough.
In this book, Toby is trying to go to sleep but it is a dark and stormy night and the wind is keeping him awake. He feels that the house is rising and falling ‘like a ship in the middle of the ocean’ and suddenly he is Captain Toby at sea; caught up in a fantastical adventure with his house indeed floating in a stormy ocean. A giant octopus appears and starts swimming towards the house. Despite the crew ensuring full steam ahead, they can’t evade the tentacled creature. Will anyone come to Captain Toby’s rescue and what will happen to him, his crew and the giant octopus?
If you have enjoyed some of Kitamura’s previous books, then you are in for another treat with this latest publication. The story is pacy and thrilling and the voyage dangerous, but the fantasy element makes for an exciting but safe read. To get the most out of the book you need to read both the text and the illustrations, and this multi-modal aspect makes it a lovely book to read alongside someone. It also means that this book can be used to explore some really big concepts, such as dreams, family, belonging and loneliness. The gatefold flap at the end also gives a satisfying and humorous ending to the story. The illustrations have a graphic novel feel, and I know lots of children will enjoy the characters, especially the cat as a crew mate.
Captain Toby is a book which can be used at any age, for reading aloud or for exploring aspects of reading and writing with particular pages. For example, I would use some of the most action packed pages to explore sound and dialogue and the feelings and thoughts of the characters. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this and others by the same author.
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