Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens
176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99
Nelson hates vegetables. He hates the smell of them, he hates the look of them. Most of all, he hates eating them, which can be tricky when you live in a family that loves them. His grandparents grow them, his father cooks them and the family devour them – all except Nelson who has the grossest pile of smuggled, uneaten vegetables stored under his bed. His greatest hate is pumpkins but this is pumpkin season and his grandfather has grown his best crop ever – which he brings to town weekly so Nelson’s dad can cook them in every way imaginable.
The other thing that Nelson hates is school, particularly Mr Shue who has been his teacher for four years, since Kindergarten. They are always on a collision course. But when his grandmother tricks him into swallowing an entire bowl of pumpkin soup, and he discovers that he has superpowers, will he us them to save the school and Mr Shue from aliens from Neptune – aliens that he invented in a moment of desperation?
This is the first in a fast-paced series that will appeal to newly-independent readers who are ready for something more meaty but still having the short chapters and liberal illustrations to support them. With its premise that will resonate with many, characters that are easily recognisable and the type of exaggerated humour that appeals to its target audience, Levins has created a series that children will engage with and parents will love, simply because it may encourage a lot more vegetable eating and the battles about eating the daily requirement may be over. Unlike Nelson who was looking for ways to hide his veges, perhaps readers will even be moved to seek out pumpkin recipes and then cook them and share their opinions with their friends in this time of stay-at-home.