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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 January 2015
First published in 1933 this book and others by Norman Hunter have kept children entertained for years, and I think many grown-ups can still remember reading of Professor Branestawm. Of course although Branestawm is the major character the stories wouldn’t be as good without his housekeeper, Mrs Flittersnoop, and his friend Colonel Dedshott.

There is an active table of contents here which you may find quite useful because although some incidents are mentioned in later stories here this is really a book of short stories. If your child has never read any Branestawm stories before then this is an ideal introduction, especially if they enjoyed the Christmas special which was on the BBC late last year. Branestawm makes Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit) look quite normal by comparison as he comes up with inventions that although created with good intentions always seem to cause chaos and damage.

As we follow Branestawm here we see the kind of troubles he gets into, and those that he causes other people. Whether he is creating a device to capture burglars, a pancake making machine or something to help with spring cleaning, things always seem to go awry, indeed whatever Branestawm touches has unforeseen consequences, including just going on holiday and attending a party.

As Branestawm manages to go from one comic mishap to another he pulls others in as well, and not just his housekeeper and the colonel, giving children a lot of comic misadventures to enjoy. This book is also brought alive by Heath Robinson’s great illustrations, especially those of the inventions of the madcap professor. This is great for children to read or even have read to them, as well as still entertaining and diverting enough for us adults, whether you have read any of the stories before or not.
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on 22 March 2014
I love the theory of Professor Branestawm – the nutty professor who gets into all sorts of scrapes when his inventions go wrong. The inventions, brought to life so beautifully by Heath Robinson, more or less lived up to my expectations. I don’t know whether I’m a little jaded, or I really have lost my humour mojo, but I found some of the stories mildly amusing, more of them irritating, and a couple, just a couple, had me laughing out loud.

There are 14 Incredible Adventures, and I laughed at the Pancake one (partly because I love pancakes and would have loved a machine making them for me – so would my mum, I reckon) and the Too-many Professors, which was a wonderful confection of chaos I could really imagine. I also delighted in no.3 The Professor Borrows a Book. I suspect the intricacies of the library system described would be lost on today’s youngster, since libraries are under threat, and the thought of each village having its own library with scores of rarely-requested books is just a pipe-dream. But the Professor’s principle of getting a copy of the same book out of one library in order to check it back into a different one is not unlike the way some people use credit cards, so I expect people will relate to it.

I kept wondering whether the book is too dated for the modern young reader. I was surprised that it is given a 9+ reader designation, since I felt the stories were ideal for six and upwards. Some of the words are quite long, and there is a lot of reflective narrative that is eminently suitable for a bedtime story, but I’m not sure how well it would be tackled by a young reader.

The quote from Charlie Higson on the front cover “Can still make a modern kid laugh like a drain” is something I bear in mind. Charlie Higson writes hugely popular kids books featuring vampires and seriously messy stuff. I assume he knows what a modern kid laughs at. It’s just that I can easily put four words in front of that quote, which makes more sense to me. Those are: “I wonder if it” .

The plots are ridiculous in the slapstick tradition and very clever. The names of people, places and organisations are full of delightful puns. It is beautifully written. And I laughed out loud at some of them. What more do you want?
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on 16 December 2014
Owing to the photographic reproduction process (not that that's any excuse) the pictures are a little fuzzier than they were, but essentially this is the 1947 Puffin I so cherish - what took them so long?? This review is of the 2008 edition. For the 2013 (TV tie-in) edition they chickened out of using Heath Robinson for the cover. They need to have the courage of their convictions; it was a marriage made in heaven, and these guys are in the wrong job
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on 21 July 2013
I grew up with the Professor Branestawm books and the fabulous drawings of W. Heath Robinson (accept no modern substitutes – this edition has the original art). Both the writing and the art are hilarious. I hadn't read Norman Hunter's work since childhood, but I bought the book for an adult friend, as a fond joke, who is into science. The stories are surreal, warm and funny. Even as a grown-up I discovered this book is still delightful. My friend now reads it to her little niece and nephew, and they all love it!
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on 6 September 2016
This is a real children's classic. Timeless and funny. Probably mostly appealing to children around 8 till 12 years old, but as always with such beautiful books, they can give reading pleasure to everyone, and lots of smiles and heart warming reading moments.
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on 30 October 2014
Started reading this with my year 5 class. They've given it some really mixed reviews. It's quite complex to read so works better with an adult reading it aloud rather than children reading it independently. If children choose to read this independently I would recommend reading it to an adult to ensure some dialogue about the plot and clarification on how some of the sentences should actually be read. It's not one to avoid because it's a challenging read - I say go for it and see what you think. Some children have really enjoyed listening to it because it is so different to everything else out there!
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on 7 July 2013
Could not believe it when i put in the words Professor Brainstom up came the above book--even though I had the name wrongly spelt--it was a series that I had as a class reader at Primary School nearly 70 years ago and I have always held it "responsible" for my love of reading--so different to the usual type of book children at other schools were reading--the little girl I bought it for also thoroughly enjoyed it.Thanks again for prompt service.

Marge
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on 12 September 2015
I first read this at the age of seven, and forty years later I downloaded it on a nostalgic whim. It's just as amusing...beautifully-written and the illustrations are just as dottily superb as they were when I was little.
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on 6 February 2015
My brother had this as a kid and I never really got into it - but investigating for my 'bookworm' daughter I saw this and she loves it so now I have to find more! So who knows if your kid is into wacky stuff (or if you are personally!) get it and give it a chance!!!
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on 16 January 2017
light laugh just as I remember
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