The Pumpkin Eater from Pondicherry, by Bruce Atherton

One night when I was lying in my
warm and cosy bed,
a shadow at the window stood
the hair up on my head.

I grabbed my biggest teddy bear
and lifted up the blind,
and what I saw was so unreal
it nearly blew my mind.

The strangest things appear at night. One night, outside the window of the small child main character, a shadow appears. The shadow belongs to a pumpkin eater from Pondicherry. But this greedy guts is a gourmand and will eat just about anything in Grandad’s garden on his way to the pumpkins. The small child decides that will not do. He/she challenges the pumpkin eater, but the pumpkin eater is determined to eat pumpkin, even if that means eating the child first. Undaunted, the child hatches a plan to beat the pumpkin eater at his greedy game. There are bios on the back page with the imprint details.

The Pumpkin Eater from Pondicherry is a delightful piece of nonsense. Small children often experience fears about strange and mysterious night noises. Atherton gives the mystery a shape and a purpose and the child some tools to banish the monster. The monster is ghoulishly grotesque and the child brave and resourceful. The rhyming text keeps the tone light, balancing Ben Redlich’s sometimes dark images. Spreads are saturated with colour with text in red, white or black to ensure ease of reading. The monster grows larger and more ugly until the child’s solution reduces him back to manageable size. Romping good fun. Recommended for early primary aged readers.

The Pumpkin Eater from Pondicherry, by Bruce Atherton, Ill Ben Redlich
Lothian 2008
ISBN: 9780734410238

Al Dentay and the Incredible Spaghetti Machine, by Bruce Atherton

Something bad’s going to happen. I can smell it in the air like a whiff of rotten garbage. I’m washing the dishes as fast as I can but the plates are piling up so high I’m surrounded by the great wall of china.

Al Dentay washes dishes in his uncle’s famous pasta restaurant. Then Al and his uncle. Lorenzo, are injured in a freak kitchen accident. In the ambulance on the way to hospital, Lorenzo gives Al his ring and pleads with him to destroy the spaghetti machine. Al and his friends Tubsy and Snotty are pursued by the evil Gorgonzola and his thugs as they race to find Lorenzo’s secret machine. They discover that wonder-chef Lorenzo was also a scientific genius who has built the most incredible machine…so mind-blowingly valuable to Gorgonzola’s bosses that the boys’ lives are in danger.

Al Dentay and the Incredible Spaghetti Machine is super-paced and action-packed. There are plenty of puns along the way and some truly awful nicknames. Al is browbeaten by his father and the restaurant manager Gorgonzola. Tubsy has more techno-gizmos than 007, and Snotty is as tough as anyone called ‘snotty’ needs to be. The stakes are high and keep getting higher as Gorgonzola pursues Al and his mates. Most of the adult characters are unpleasant and deserve the misfortunes that they encounter. Upper-primary readers, especially boys, will revel in the action and the technology.

Al Dentay and the Incredible Spaghetti Machine, by Bruce Atherton
Lothian Books, 2007
ISBN: 9780734409829