Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Eye Pocket: The Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers - E J Crow

E J Crow almost deserves an award for having a title that is almost as many letters long as his book is pages long. The Eye Pocket: The Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers would certainly win an award for the most puzzling book I've read during the Cybils - were I giving out such an award, but I'm not.

This is the story: 9 year old Bobby Humblebeech's dad used to be a member of the Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers and he used to go to exciting places, and do and see interesting things. But then the society kicked him out and now he just sits around watching TV whilst Bobby wants to go out and have fun. (Bobby's mother works full time and is rarely home). Every morning Oscar completes what his son terms "the Walk of Shame" when he goes out to the end of the drive to pick up the paper, dressed in his pyjamas and robe. His son, charming child that he is, thinks this is highly amusing and laughs at his father.

One day when Bobby has failed to persuade his father to do anything with him, he is hanging around the playground when he encouters Dirk Straw (who is described as "the town weirdo" - although he seems merely a little odd since he likes wearing Flying Ace goggles) and Dirk's sister Sam, of whom Bobby is apparently afraid (although there's no obvious reason why). They show Bobby a secret, apparently magical, place that can only be seen from the corner of one's eye - hence an "Eye Pocket". In the Eye Pocket past, present and future intermingle, and the three children find a genuine Spanish gold doubloon and an old sword. However, before they can properly investigate, they are scared away by an unidentified gigantic beast with tusks. The three run home and try to convince Mr. Humblebeech of what they've seen. He takes some convincing, but once he realises the coin is genuine, he gets excited and goes out to the garage to kit out the children with some of his high-tech Society equipment. The four of them head off to the Eye Pocket and using some of Mr H's equipment they unearth a large chest full of doubloons. Dreaming of what they will spend the money on, the four find themselves attacked by the ghosts of the men who stole the gold. Mr H disables the ghosts and the four make their escape back home, but the ghosts can travel out of the Eye Pocket and they turn up determined to get their gold back. Mr H has set up some equipment with which to trap (and record) the ghosts, intending to take them to the next meeting of the FSoPA, but Bobby sets the ghosts free (with the money). They nevertheless take the recording of the ghosts to the FSoPA meeting the next night, but none of the Society members believe that Mr H is telling the truth and they're laughed out of the building. Mr H then resumes his TV watching life.

If, as Gail Gauthier suggests, the point of a book is to communicate a message to readers, I have to wonder what message Crow was trying to communicate ? That it's OK to mock the unemployed ? That it's OK to label someone a "weirdo" just because they're a little bit different ? I was also puzzled by the randomness of some of the events in this book - whilst they're at the meeting of the FSoPA, the three children accidentally enter a secret passage - then Bobby's dad lets them back out about 30 seconds later. The Society's guardian is a sleeping lion - which apparently wakes up whilst Mr H and the children are at the meeting - but then it turns out to be a false alarm - without any explanation of the significance of its sleeping or waking. It's a shame because the idea of the Eye Pocket has good, storytelling potential - but it's rather wasted on this story.

The Eye Pocket: The Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers is also available from

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