Zhou, rising 2nd grader, seven years old: So what's up, Mom?
Your Neighborhood Librarian: Tell me about Tashi.
Z: Tashi is a book for boys and girls, and it's kind of a fairy tale. It has fairy-tale creatures and not-fairy-tale creatures in the same book. I love how there's the big actual story, which is this little elf man called Tashi comes to a new country after he's been sold to this really mean warlord by his parents for some reason, and then Tashi meets Jack, his new friend, and this Jack has his own garden and when he goes up the tree he tells stories, at lunch, and he tells Jack stories, and Jack tells stories to his mom and dad, and his dad is all worried about socks in one story. That's why dad is kind of funny.
YNL: So there are multiple stories in one book, and some of them are told by Tashi to Jack and some are told by Jack to his parents.
Z: Yup. It's very common to see parents telling a bedtime story but in this one it's the parents saying, "Tell me a story! Tell me another Tashi story!"
YNL: What do you like about the characters?
Z: Some of them are funny, and Tashi is smart, because he uses a goose as a model of him.
YNL: Wait a minute. Why?
Z: So he doesn't get shoved in the oven by this evil witch. Named Baba Yaga. Which, if you're a witch I wouldn't recommend having that name.
Z: Because it's not all wow monsters and terrifying name. It's just a low-settling name I wouldn't choose for a child and not all scary.
YNL: But ok he uses a goose as a model for himself?
Z: Yeah he puts his clothes on the goose and he hides in the cupboard and the goose goes in the oven and that gives him time to get away.
YNL: I'd rather eat a goose anyway.
Z: Well apparently this witch liked baked children. With their clothes on. That's why the fence around her house is made of children bones and skulls on top. But don't worry they're dry bones.
Mao (8 years old, eavesdropping): That's pretty gruesome.
Z: Yeah but don't worry.
YNL: Let me see.
YNL: Yeah you're right. That's not so bad. So anyway, they're good stories.
Z: They're great stories. They're interesting, and they take a lot of... wits to save the day.
YNL: Tashi saves the day.
Z: Tashi always saves the day! But sometimes he has helpers.
YNL: What do you think about the art.
Z: The art is like a quarter of the fun of it. It's mystical and funny... sometimes it's scary and spooky and sometimes it really pops out of the book.
YNL: [Zhou], which of your friends do you think would like this book?
Z: My friends that aren't like obsessed with machine guns and shooting and stuff. But I definitely think it's a book for boys and girls. And it's not hard to read. I think it's right exactly at the level of me and my friends.
YNL: Would you read it a second time?
Z: I would read it probably a fourth time, if I got the chance.
YNL: All right thank you little man.
Z: You're welcome.
YNL: Are you going to read more Tashi now or are you going to play with LEGO?
Z: Tashi for now. Maybe I'll work on the LEGO armada later.
I myself will accord the art more than one quarter of the reason why these books are so great. Kim Gamble has built Tashi a great little world, and Jack as well. Every page is illustrated, with bad guys who are extremely bad, expressive people and creatures, and scenery that you'd like to explore. There's a real Franco-Belgian thing going on here, like Spirou et Fantasio for little kids. I am extremely happy to finally have this Australian import to hand my young readers.