Review Blog

May 11 2020

James Gong : The Big Hit by Paul Collins

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Hybrid Publishers, 2020. ISBN: 9781925736441. 161pp.
(Age: 10-13) Recommended. James Gong is the anti-hero of this humorous novel told in the first person. James is a 14 year old average Australian school boy who is very good at taekwondo. The reader soon realises that James has an overly high opinion of himself. In fact he is quite self-centred, picks his nose and is an annoying younger brother to his sister, Caitlin. His taekwondo skills become noticed by some film makers who enlist him as an actor in their film, Ham Solo : Revenge of the Fist. Along with his wiser friends, we become aware that the film is not the Hollywood standard that it is purported to be by the film makers. James' acquaintances are expert skateboarders; James worries about having to kiss one of the actors and he ends up organising all the publicity for the film. Throughout most of the novel James continues to make excuses for his own failings and the lack of professionalism by the film makers.
You fear he will never wise up and take on responsibility for his own actions. There are several major reveals in the last few chapters, which help us learn about James' endearing side and understand some odd behaviour earlier in the novel.
There's plenty of light weight, crazy action which will maintain the appeal for middle to upper primary boys. It is ideal for reluctant readers, although not necessarily readers with reading difficulties. The author has brought his considerable knowledge of taekwondo to the story and given this some authenticity. There are quite a few references to old movies and TV series which may go above readers' heads. However it is grounded in today's multicultural Australia and younger male interests. The cover has an attractive manga design and small illustrations also feature at the beginning of each chapter. Teacher's notes are available.
Jo Marshall

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