Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm

Professor BranestawmThis is one of the books I selected for the Classic Childrens Book Reading Challenge, as I’d heard of it, but never come across it in my youth.  I don’t know why, as it was published in 1933.  The kindle edition cost more than the paperback*, so I bought the paperback, which ensures I got the wonderful line drawings by Heath Robinson.  It’s marked as the 75th*Diamond* anniversary edition.  Publishers obviously have different anniversary classifications from royalty and weddings!

I love the theory of Professor Branestawm – the nutty professor who gets into all sorts of scrapes when his inventions go wrong.  The inventions, brought to life so beautifully by Heath Robinson, more or less lived up to my expectations.  I don’t know whether I’m a little jaded, or I really have lost my humour mojo, but I found some of the stories mildly amusing, more of them irritating, and a couple, just a couple, had me laughing out loud.

There are 14 Incredible Adventures, and I laughed at the Pancake one (partly because I love pancakes and would have loved a machine making them for me – so would my mum, I reckon) and the Too-many Professors, which was a wonderful confection of chaos I could really imagine.  I also delighted in no.3 The Professor Borrows a Book.  I suspect the intricacies of the library system described would be lost on today’s youngster, since libraries are under threat, and the thought of each village having its own library with scores of rarely-requested books is just a pipe-dream.  We still have a mobile library in our rural area, which you have to be ready for on the right day of the month for the right half hour when it is scheduled to be in the village!  Otherwise it’s a bus to the main library in the city, although there is a small one attached to a school in a nearby town.  I digress. But the Professor’s principle of getting a copy of the same book out of one library in order to check it back into a different one is not unlike the way some people use credit cards, so I expect people will relate to it.

I kept wondering whether the book is too dated for the modern MG reader.  Frankly, I was surprised that it is given a 9+ reader designation, since I felt the stories were ideal for six and upwards.  Some of the words are quite long, and there is a lot of reflective narrative that is eminently suitable for a bedtime story, but I’m not sure how well it would be tackled by a young reader.  I will give my copy to a friend of the right age and ask for feedback.  He’s already read it, I expect!

The quote from Charlie Higson on the front cover “Can still make a modern kid laugh like a drain” is something I bear in mind. Charlie Higson writes hugely popular kids books featuring vampires and seriously messy stuff.  I assume he knows what a modern kid laughs at.  It’s just that I can easily put four words in front of that quote, which makes more sense to me.  Those are: “I wonder if it” .

No, I’mKid-Lit-Blog-Hop-Button-Sep-2012 being too hard.  The plots are ridiculous in the slapstick tradition and very clever.  The names of people, places and organisations are full of delightful puns.  It is beautifully written.  And I laughed out loud at some of them.  What more do you want?

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter

* when I checked in Feb 2013 it was the other way round.

This is part of the 10th Kid Lit Blog Hop.  Another on this Hop (starting 20th Feb) features a review of The Princelings of the East.   Julie Grasso (Author of Escape from the Forbidden Planet) has reviewed it on her blog When I grow up I want to write a kids book! Check it out!


17 thoughts on “Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm

  1. Great Review Jemima
    I think it is fabulous to compare the writings of yesteryear to see if today’s generaltion will relate. What a challenge to write a book that will truly be relevant 50 years from now, I know its beyond me, lol. Thanks for bringing our attention to the book. Cheers Julie

  2. I agree, it’s always interesting to see which stories ‘stand the test of time’. This is a new one to me, but the illustrations alone look brilliant.

  3. Hi, Jemima!
    What an interesting book. I think the neighbor girl may enjoy at least a few of the stories in this book. Your honest review is appreciated. Wow. We have four libraries within 20 minutes driving distance from us. We appreciate you sharing your library story with us. Very interesting. It is nice to be on the blog hop with you this time around.

  4. I must admit I’ve never heard of this book. Do you find sometimes you just read a book in the wrong frame of mind? There are books that I’ve read that I was SURE I would enjoy and it ended up disappointing me mostly because I read it at the wrong time or because I read it after a particular book that left me jaded, or whatever. I think with “slapstick”, you really need to be in that kind of a mood, kwim?

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop Jemima! 🙂

    • I can’t remember now how I picked up on this book – maybe it had been reviewed on Goodreads and I’d marked it to read, so when I was looking for things published pre-1960 I came across it. It’s also possible it was recommended at a Children’s Book publishing seminar I went to that kicked my self-publishing career off!
      As I had the paperback, it sat next to me on the sofa to be read any time I felt like it. But you’re right, maybe I wasn’t in the mood at times, just felt I had to keep reading it.
      And thank you for being there with the Kid Lit Blog Hop – it’s great!

  5. Pingback: February tidy-up & Challenge summary | Jemima Pett

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