A tale of life in the urban jungle. Two rival gangs, the Hammers and the Nails, are brought together by the Surfman, who opens a surf shop in the dismal neighbourhood and then shows them all how to surf without a beach.
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Grade 3-8-The author of several excellent wordless picture books adds text this time to his outstanding illustrations. The story is told by a skateboarding boy who is caught between two rival gangs in an unnamed city. When a man opens up a surfing supply shop in the neighborhood, the gangs stop fighting, first out of amusement (the beach is a two-day drive away), then out of curiosity. When the owner (dubbed "the Surfman") amazingly builds a "wave machine" out of the wreckage of a factory, everyone is excited. Both gangs buy supplies from the shop and enjoy the surfing without dispute for a while. When things go wrong with the machine, however, violence erupts. Stark city scenes dominate the illustrations, with gray and black shadowy buildings dwarfing the tiny human figures. Other than the street thugs, the boy narrator, and the Surfman, no other signs of life are shown. When one group wrecks the machine, it is suggested that the gangs may be responsible for the bleak and empty city, yet the illustrations make them appear powerless and insignificant. The narrator retains hope at the end, but it is unclear whether he has any reason to believe the Surfman will return. Such ambiguities detract from the allegory, and the bizarre and elaborate plot never quite measures up to the striking artwork.
Steven Engelfried, West Lynn Library, OR
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3-5. From wordless picture books, such as The Midnight Circus, reviewed on p.763, Collington has now moved to a sophisticated illustrated story for older readers. The setting is a rundown city neighborhood, and the narrator is a boy caught between two rival gangs. Tall, gray, uniform project buildings tower over the streets and crowd the lonely boy; the rows and rows of windows are as blank and angry as the gangs that threaten him. Then the Surfman comes to town and sets up in an abandoned store. At first everyone laughs at him--the sea is a two-day drive away from these streets--but he works at night, transforming an abandoned factory into a wave machine. The boy watches and helps with the work and feels close to the newcomer. At first, the gangs have a glorious time with the Surfman's gift, but their truce breaks down, they smash the machine, and the Surfman leaves. The paintings are haunting, many of them set at night, with just the glow from a street lamp or the flame of the Surfman's welding torch. The surreal quality, with precise geometric detail, captures the alienation of the boy. The text picks up the imagery of the pictures, as light and color and movement begin to leak into the streets and into the young people's lives; and then darkness returns. The boy remembers, though, and he dreams that the Surfman will come back. Hazel Rochman
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Book Description Red Fox, 1995. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0099501414