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Captain Toby

Captain Toby

Published: 3 Jun 2021

Hardback, 28 pages

Recommended for age 5+

By Satoshi Kitamura

Published by Scallywag Press

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It's a dark and stormy night and Toby cannot sleep. The whole house seems to be tossing and turning like a ship in the middle of the ocean...and soon Toby enters a fantasy world where he is indeed at sea, caught up in a strange and wild adventure. Luckily, Toby's cat makes up the crew of his ship, and together they chart a course through the storm and fend off a giant sea monster - with the last minute help of a mystery submarine which comes to their aid.

But hang on, the submarine is manned by his Grandma and Grandpa! Soon they are back in the safety of the harbour, ready for breakfast - but lift the flap for one last surprise! Dramatic and surreal, there is danger and bravery with a large dose of the surreal, and lots more to notice on every re-read.

Tagged journeys

Reviewed by Heather Hann

Captain Toby was originally published as part of the Spooky Surprise series but has been reissued with additional illustrations. It is written by Satoshi Kitamura who has written books such as Stone Age Boy and The Smile Shop, as well as illustrating books for John Agard and Roger McGough.

In this book, Toby is trying to go to sleep but it is a dark and stormy night and the wind is keeping him awake. He feels that the house is rising and falling ‘like a ship in the middle of the ocean’ and suddenly he is Captain Toby at sea; caught up in a fantastical adventure with his house indeed floating in a stormy ocean. A giant octopus appears and starts swimming towards the house. Despite the crew ensuring full steam ahead, they can’t evade the tentacled creature. Will anyone come to Captain Toby’s rescue and what will happen to him, his crew and the giant octopus?

If you have enjoyed some of Kitamura’s previous books, then you are in for another treat with this latest publication. The story is pacy and thrilling and the voyage dangerous, but the fantasy element makes for an exciting but safe read. To get the most out of the book you need to read both the text and the illustrations, and this multi-modal aspect makes it a lovely book to read alongside someone. It also means that this book can be used to explore some really big concepts, such as dreams, family, belonging and loneliness. The gatefold flap at the end also gives a satisfying and humorous ending to the story. The illustrations have a graphic novel feel, and I know lots of children will enjoy the characters, especially the cat as a crew mate.

Captain Toby is a book which can be used at any age, for reading aloud or for exploring aspects of reading and writing with particular pages. For example, I would use some of the most action packed pages to explore sound and dialogue and the feelings and thoughts of the characters. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this and others by the same author.

Heather is currently the Head of School Improvement for a large MAT in Suffolk. Before that she spent 25 years teaching in Essex where she worked as a teacher and part of the Essex School Improvement Team as a Literacy Consultant; before finally becoming Headteacher of a Primary School. She loves reading, baking, visiting her beach hut and Wallace and Gromit; seeking out every opportunity to combine them wherever possible!