James Clavell | Critical Review by Everett Groseclose

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of James Clavell.
This section contains 636 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Everett Groseclose

Critical Review by Everett Groseclose

SOURCE: "Kids' Stuff from an Old Asia Hand," in The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 1986, p. 30.

In the following review, Groseclose praises Clavell's Thrump-o-moto for its appeal to adults as well as children.

Has success bored James Clavell?

How else can one explain the author's latest entry into the world of books? Not another Tai-Pan or Shogun—but rather a handsome, oversized children's story called Thrump-O-Moto.

Since Mr. Clavell's only other children's story was published 23 years ago, this new one is a departure worthy of note. His Whirlwind, the fifth in his series of Asian sagas that also will reach book-sellers soon, fetched a reported record $5 million for U.S. rights alone at a publisher's auction back in January.

Whatever the author's reasons for doing the book, Thrump-O-Moto is a delightful yarn. This reader's 14-year-old daughter, a discerning veteran of countless children's stories good and bad, swiped the book and read it in a single sitting during a recent lakeside holiday. She pronounced it "charming" and, "not quite like anything I've ever read before—part Alice-in-Wonderland and part Arabian Nights."

The book takes its title from the main character, an apprentice-wizard who's still learning the ropes. It's a tale of good versus evil, of hope and aspiration and courage. It presumes a willingness to suspend logic and believe in magic.

Thrump-O-Moto, age 465, height about two feet and bedecked in a kimono, meets Patricia, a cheerful seven-year-old who lives on the edge of the Australian Outback, when he muffs a travel trick at home in Japan and ends up in Australia. Patricia, who can move about only with the aid of crutches, is soon "woozed" through time and space to Japan by her new-found friend.

Patricia gradually regains the use of her legs after much wizardly earlobe pulling and magic word saying, meets the evil spirit Nurk-u when she goes to a forest with Thrump-O-Moto and his mom. He is part of the same cabal of baddies that put her on crutches in Australia. It's a memorable encounter: "Nurk-u stood as high as the heavens and he was dressed all in fire with five eyes and blue hair and 10 fingers on each hand, his nails like long knives. Green poison dropped from the tips."

Mr. Thrump-O lops off the ghoul's head, but another grows back, uglier than the first and with 10 eyes instead of five. Virtue eventually triumphs but we learn that some fights can't be avoided and that no one else can do it for you.

So it goes with Mr. Clavell, from one moral lesson to another. Nurk-u finally gets tossed off a cliff, but that still leaves Patricia with her difficulty walking. On advice from a grandfather wizard, she and Thrump-O "wooz" to an imaginary land to find Charlie Rednosebeerdrinker. He knows where to find the essence of sunset primrose, which the old wizard has said will make Patricia able to walk again.

Then comes yet another memorable battle, this time with Muldoona, Hag Queen of the Forest. Because of Patricia's courage and determination, plus a little magic, the girl wins. Soon she is "woozed" back home to her father's loving arms. Primrose essence in hand, she regains the use of her legs and all is wonderful forever.

Too sweet and too pat, perhaps, but nice nonetheless. In fact, the whole book is nice. Its illustrations, by George Sharp, a painter and designer, are at once pleasing and appropriately horrifying. The printing, of unusual quality, is by an Italian firm. Even the book's dust jacket, the highest grade bond, is folded back at the edges, not trimmed by machine.

The result must be pleasing to Mr. Clavell. At $20 a copy it may even make him a bit richer, thanks to doting parents and adoring grandparents, who may be the audience he wanted to reach in the first place.

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This section contains 636 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Everett Groseclose
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