Bursting with larger than life characters and written in a broad narrative voice reminiscent of Roald Dahl, Timothy and the Phubbers is a laugh out loud school comedy whose misfit characters struggle with the trials of new classmates, school projects, and a world overrun with the smartphone-savvy elite (also known as Phubbers).
Lolita Chiong’s sketchy black and white illustrations bring the range of characters to life, the art style reminiscent of Quentin Blake or Tony Ross. The lively combination of art and text create an alchemical blend that brilliantly carries across moments of physical action and comedy.
In one example, text layouts and illustration work together to trace the arc of a handphone across a two page spread as it hits the spinning ceiling fan and drops towards a tall porcelain vase, ratcheting up dramatic tension before the vase crashes to the floor at the bottom of the spread.
For much of the book, Timothy navigates the gulf between digital and analogue. Just as he’s an outcast for being the target of school billies, he’s excluded by not owning a phone in a family that communicates exclusively through WhatsApp. Yet even after he does enter the world of social media, he finds that he doesn’t enjoy it in the way the Phubbers in his family do and ultimately rejects the all-encompassing way that they engage with the world through phones.
Timothy’s journey sees him connect with others who similarly reject addiction to social media popularity and smartphone usage, including his estranged Uncle Russ Tee. The riotous plot is sprinkled with heartfelt moments without ever becoming too mawkish, elevating themes of belonging and acceptance.
Written for older children, with some language that puts this read in the bracket for age 11 and up, Timothy and the Phubbers is a rollicking tale that will appeal to kids who might struggle with fitting in.
This post is part of our series for the duration of the Circuit Breaker measures to shine a spotlight on SingLit books that we find to be uniquely encouraging. If you already own the book, perhaps you might want to dig out your copy to read again. If you don’t already have it, you can purchase Timothy and the Phubbers from Woods in the Books. Quote GIFTSINGLIT to get $10 off from now to 6 June 2020.