Date of publication February 2014
Guest reviewer Mr Neville Sandon.
After ALIA announced that The Brothers Quibble had been chosen as the book for the 2015 NSS (http://www.alia.org.au/nss) it provoked some discussion about its suitability. I asked a parent for a review.
No doubt you have heard the expression “It serves no practical use!” In this instance (the Brothers Quibble) the expression would apply.
Following the arrival of his baby brother, young Spalding Quibble, declares war, and begins the unending threatening and tyrannical behaviour. We watch this autocratic, dominating, self-centred child, step by egregious step through “juvenile rivalry”. Month after month of traumatising mum and dad, the bedraggled and impotent parents resort to ” We’ve had enough – time out -…!”
There is a turning point – it’s not with the parents but with the youngest brother – the grounds of Spalding’s threat! Spalding’s transformation begins at the point when the younger brother can respond. However, it is really a matter of “come up-ance”. For whom though? … Spalding? … mum and dad? After a year, double trouble is unleashed on the benign parents.
Disturbingly, the story leads to the inevitable cul-de-sac. The day of reckoning rests in the hands of the infant brother, Bunny. You get back what you dish out – with interest!
So what happened to Mum and Dad in this macabre “humorous” story? Are we to sit back and watch the development or spiral (depending on your perspective) of the partners-in-crime. Guess who wears the crown around the family and around the house?
Yes, the book rhymes but the story does not resonate for many. The diabolical disasters make for “entertaining” reading but who is this entertainment aimed at? There is a subtle shift over time in the genre of children’s books.
Who is this book written for?
Is it for parents? Is this a tongue-in-cheek black comedy story? … A means by which hapless parents find something of a comfort blanket in this tale? … Or a painting of what helpless parents are to face without thinking through a plan for the way forward? Does it matter? It’s just a yarn for adults … if so then it should be in an adult’s library, not a children’s library.
Is it for children? Isn’t this about disturbed “bullying”? This is a children’s book but this needs qualifying. It is a book about some children but not for children. While adults could possibly see the funny side, little ones don’t see any humour in sibling rivalry. This book is not for a children’s library but an adult one.
As a friend reminded me of the euphemism “Let’s not quibble!” – some adults will faun over this – kids won’t get it!