The Goffins: Fun and Games by Jeanne Willis
|The Goffins: Fun and Games by Jeanne Willis|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: This is a more engaging first sequel, with George and the small, old-fashioned but practical people in the attic. There is still nothing radical in the book, but this feels more successfully charming than the series opener.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: March 2009|
|External links: Author's website|
You are never more than five roofs away from a Goffin. For those who didn't realise this, they are miniature people, living in the high parts of old churches, abandoned buildings, and attics, such as the one George lives under, crammed as it is with copious artefacts from his family's distinctive past. Bored in the summer break, he found a compelling pair of Goffins, who taught him about himself, his background and a host more. And now comes the sequel to all that.
I have to say I was not completely convinced by the first book in this series from Jeanne Willis. There was enough that was new for the average target reader, given its very old-fashioned-seeming look at genealogy, and other entertainments, that school holiday fiction these days just does not cover. It did seem rather slight when it came to high drama, however, and I did wonder if it proved too slight to be a hit.
As a result this might be a case of familiarity breeds contentment, but I will come down on the positive side and say it is the content that is the main cause. I think that while the pattern forming of fun and droll times with George, Lofty and Eave, at risk of being discovered by his parents, while his gran sits downstairs knowingly silent about it all, is served by a stronger narrative this time round.
We still get a host of messages from the book, again delivered in ways that vary in their subtlety. We learn about the suffragettes, and women's labours in times past just to get themselves a job. We learn not to take medicines we are not supposed to; we learn to follow the news. Above all we get a lot from the Goffin way of life – the simplicity in using what is around us, the almost environmental fashion of taking older ways of doing things and making do. You don't have to read far between the lines to learn that with a kind heart and a simple will to interact, one never need be bored.
As such the book is one that is practicing what it preaches, and living by its own virtues, and finding delight in the quaint. So rap music is usurped by Elvis and the Charleston, the electriconic game is abandoned for the joys of spillikins (and boy didn't that make me feel old? Don't ask where our package of plastic rifles and cutlasses is, though), and we aren't supposed to demand high-octane adventure books – George and gran distracting the lad's dad by a game of marbles on the carpet while the Goffins above steal the ladder that might lead to their discovery, is supposed to be enough.
And you know what, I think it just might be. There will forever be some for whom this is a little stodgy, a bit too dusty and old, but this got under my skin with more charm than the opener. It does boil down to a boy and his friends having a jig, a cake, and some games one afternoon, but the target audience might well find more depth to the telling, more delight in the novel (for which, again, read quaint), and a lively, joyful read.
We at the Bookbag must thank the publishers for our review copy.
For another book which harks back to times past we can recommend The Mummy Snatcher of Memphis: A Kit Salter Adventure by Natasha Narayan.
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