Review also includes:
Captain Fact’s Dinosaur Adventure, 978-1405208338
It seems that in publishing, like TV programme making, one of the ways of coming up with new, and hopefully profitable, ideas is to combine some that are already well tried and tested. The pedigree of Egmont’s new venture into the popular children’s information market is pretty obvious. It’s Captain Underpants meets Horrible Histories.
In this new series, presented in semi-cartoon format, the inept weather forecaster, Cliff Thornhill, and his dog Puddles are transformed into Captain Fact and his faithful sidekick, Knowledge. Their perilous super-hero missions enable them to travel at a comfortably amiable and superficial level through various subject areas. In these two titles they travel back in time to return a baby dinosaur to its mother and across space to Mars to rescue Dr. Barnabus, a super-intelligent Ape, whose space ship Ape-ollo 13 is running low on bananas. In the series, there is also a Creepy Crawly Adventure and an Egyptian Adventure.
At points in each story, Captain Fact suffers a Fact Attack, signalled by a twitching of some part of his body, which leads to the eruption of a double page of fascinating facts about, say, animals in space travel, or the habits and discussions of Triceratops. The basic idea is not bad, although you have to rely on the reader to be able to sift out the fact from the fantasy. But its realisation is undistinguished. Like the cartoons in Captain Underpants, these illustrations have a deliberate under-the-desk quality that reminds me of the efforts that the more talented of my mates could manage as a diversion in a tedious lesson. And, although Captain Fact is supposed to have had the entire contents of a library etched into his brain by a lightning strike, the number of facts that he shares with his readers offers very little value for £3.99 compared to any of Scholastic’s Horrible series. The ultimate test of a series like this will be whether the intended customers and their parents are prepared to put their hands in their pockets.