Review Blog

Oct 20 2014

The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have pen, will travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw

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Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781408855973
(Age: 7-12 years) Recommended. At last, a series in the vein of Tom Gates and Eric Vale, with a female protagonist Ellie McDougal, or McDoodle as her friends call her because of her love of drawing.
Ellie's parents have left town for a family funeral and left Ellie, and her baby brother Ben-Ben, with her Uncle, Aunt and cousins much to Ellie's disgust. Not only is she unhappy at being dumped with people she considers pains, they are off camping but not in tents as Ellie is used to, but cramped in a cabin.
From the nightmare car trip, which sounds like any trip featuring five children one of whom is determined not to like anything, to greeting her parents a week later, Ellie documents the highs and more particularly the lows of the trip. The variable weather, her aunt's strict rules, annoying cousin Eric and his constant teasing, and her not so pleasant observations of the family.
When Eric discovers her diary, reads and draws in it Ellie is distraught, especially as Aunt Mug has read it as well. Ellie discovers there is more to learn about Aunt Mug, and that it is time to apologise to Eric and find a way to enjoy the final three days.
The text is easy to read as much of the writing is in the form of captions to the many sketches and comic strips which populate the pages.
The addition of an interview with the author and tips on how to keep a sketch journal, how to sketch and hints for drawing comics, like 'First: write the words. Last: draw voice balloons around the words' are designed to encourage readers to embark on their own journal writing. The following books in the series recording events such as being the new kid at school will resonate with many readers.
Sue Keane

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