The incredibly boring monotonous family by Phillip Barry
Pan Macmillan, Sydney. 2008
(Age: 8 to 11) An entertaining comedy.
Despite the off putting title of this book it is a fun read. The cover and interior have Quentin Blake type illustrations by Charlotte Lance, and the book had a Roald Dahl-esque humour, with unattractive characters made entertaining by the lively writing. The Monotonous family has the most boring life one could imagine, even down to eating choko sandwiches and vinegary porridge every day and listening to tapes of Pi to the nth degree on the way to school! It is all in the realm of fantasy (except Good Weekend magazine recently featured a family who lived on only raw meat, raw milk and raw cheese!)
One day a gold key mysteriously comes their way and it opens the door to a life of fun for the two children, Stan and Ann. Suddenly they experience food (mountains of glorious food) colour, toys and modern clothes .
However, only Ann can handle it, and she learns how to have fun at home and school, making friends for the first time in the process. Stan gorges on the food, Mr. Monotonous is threatened by it all and cowers in his room and Mrs. Monotonous becomes obsessed by how to become rich by duplicating the gold key.
Ann has to sort her family out and much nonsensical hilarity and mayhem ensues before all ends happily. How people react to change is a theme entertainingly tackled here.
Scattered throughout the book are commonplace cliches, e.g. dead as a doornail, which receive a humorous scrutiny as well as introducing readers to them.
This would be a marvellous book to read aloud to middle primary students, many of whom would be likely to borrow it for themselves later and then be encouraged to go on to read Roald Dahl.