Review Blog

Oct 02 2019

Ask Hercules Quick by Ursula Dubosarsky

cover image

Illus. by Andrew Joyner, Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760296827.
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Humour, Animals, Magic, Work, STEM. When Hercules spies a magic kit in the shop window, he falls in love. All the way home he asks his Aunt Alligator questions about the cost and how he could buy it. At last they decide that he can do some odd jobs for his neighbours, a very unusual mix of people. Upstairs lives an extended family of very hairy elks, while nearby live the turtle brothers, and an octopus lives on the floor below. Under Mr Calamari in the cold dark cellar, lives Queen Claude who is rarely seen.
Hercules makes a lovely sign and puts it in his window, advertising his abilities and finds a sock to put his money in when he begins to work.
Surprisingly Professor Calamari knocks on the door. He has a most unusual job for Hercules: to take his rose petals and cast them out over the heads of people as they walk by. When the bucket is empty, Hercules is given his money plus an orphaned tadpole as a gift. Next he hears from the Elk family wanting a babysitter. This job is much harder as the elk toddler is full of energy, and just when Hercules lies on the couch, Queen Claude asks him downstairs as she has lost her ping pong ball.
Then the turtle brothers want him to sing a wet and dry song to help with their laundry. His sock is filling with ten cent pieces, and though it is not enough to buy the magic box from the shop, some real magic happens in front of his eyes.
Joyner's gloriously funny illustrations keep the story alive as we see inside Hercules' home and those of his neighbours. Each is individual, reflecting the character of the tenant, showcasing the variety of people who may live in an apartment block. Readers will love pointing out the myriad of objects depicted on each page, and delight in the characters of each of these unusual tenants.
A warmth of family and friendship over-arches the story, reminding the reader that family does not mean the nuclear family shown so often in books, but can be as wide and various as the people around us. In the background some mathematical deduction happens with readers asked to think about Hercules' problem and and the work Hercules must do to earn a few cents, while children will be intrigued by the variety of animals shown.
Fran Knight

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