Review Blog

Mar 11 2010

The last alchemist by Colin Thompson

cover image

Random House, 1999 (Reprinted 2010). ISBN: 9781741664171.
(Ages 5 to 95) Highly recommended. With the new Millennium fast approaching, the King has ordered Spinifex, his nineteenth alchemist, to find the secret to producing gold. Although Arthur, the alchemist's assistant, endeavours to watch and assist with the project he perceives values in life differently to the King and the alchemist. When sent into the countryside to collect gold, he returns with sunshine, canaries, marigolds and egg yolks, causing the alchemist to become angry. Spinifex takes his turn at going to collect gold but achieves very little. By the time the Millennium arrives, the alchemist has gone mad through his efforts and disaster strikes.
Colin Thompson's zany, intensely colourful, meticulously detailed illustrations provide a perfect backdrop to this cleverly written tale. The reader can either consider just the somewhat ordinary text without glancing at the pictures or alternatively ponder for hours over the intricate details included therein. A bilby like creature is hidden on many pages, along with multiple references to 'Max' the dog. Escher like staircases cause one to lose one's sense of perspective and clever references to gold are used as book titles, for example Gold Comfort Farm and How Gold was my Valley. Thompson's books are suited not only to junior primary students but to multiple age groups. A wonderful title for any class discussing values and endeavouring to discover what is most important in life!
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School

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