Thomas Breaks a Promise

last night’s bedtime book: Thomas Breaks a Promise, of uncredited authorship, illustrated by Richard Courtney. Here at the house, we have Thomas and the Treasure, a DVD that we ripped off from the library; we have this book; and we have a few Thomas trains that grandma got for Alex. He really loves all this stuff, and I can see why; the addition of friendly faces to the convenient blank canvas of the front of a steam engine is an awesome merchandising idea. Alex digs trains in general, and trains with faces–watch out now!

Despite being one of Alex’s favourite books, this one is all the pablum you’d expect from a children’s book written by a branding committee. The most interesting aspect of the Thomas material that Alex has is front and center here, though, as Sir Topham Hatt elicits the promise that Thomas makes (possible spoiler: and then breaks in the book’s climax). If you aren’t familiar with the Thomas stories, from the stuff I’ve seen Hatt is The Man on the island of Sodor’s railways, keeping the trains in line and running on time. The thing about Hatt I find fascinating is that he appears to be a total dickhead. In his really difficult job of keeping things running on a small island with an amazing retinue of trains at his disposal, he curtly issues orders, happily passes out harsh words and punishments for infractions, and rarely has a kind word for anyone. Sometimes I wonder if the Hatt character (and others in children’s media that I’ve been exposed to, like Mister Websley from Leap Frog’s Letter Factory series) is written the way he is to program kids subconsciously to put up with this shit when they join the work force.

Anyway, Richard Courtney’s artwork here is superficially impressive, but keep an eye on the trains–things like noses and eyes wander in placement from one page to another. I think he knew he was slumming to take this job on.

Drawbacks aside, at least the book doesn’t hop the tracks into a total marketing meltdown with come-ons to buy the seventeenth engine in the Sodor line or something. It’s just an uninspiring, vanilla book, and we give those two Pochaccos around here.

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