Chief Wiggum’s Book of Crime and Punishment is one of a series of The Simpsons books that focus on individual characters. It’s highly illustrated and includes such things as ‘Chief Wiggum’s Top 40’ (and Bottom 40), comics, case files and TV scripts.
The books in the Simpsons Library of Wisdom series are a little hit and miss at times. The Ralph Wiggum one is extremely amusing in places and the Homer one is quite character-appropriate, so I was pleased when one of the most recent books involved another one of my favourite characters, Chief Wiggum. I found my copy in the UK, and dragged it all the way back to Australia with me, looking forward to reading it.
Unfortunately, Chief Wiggum’s Book of Crime and Punishment does not live up to the standards set by some of the earlier volumes in the series. The serialised comic strip is unfunny and dull and a lot of the pages are dominated by large pictures with very little accompanying text. More to the point, however, none of the content feels particularly original. A lot of the time, the only thing that marks this as a Simpsons book is the illustration.
There are a couple of likeable pages here, but overall my impression was one of disinterest and sometimes even boredom. Unless you’re a die-hard Chief Wiggum fan (and possibly particularly if you’re a die hard Chief Wiggum fan), I would recommend starting with one of the other titles if you’re new to the Library of Wisdom.
The Craggy Island Parish Magazines is a book tie-in to the 1990s television programme, ‘Father Ted’. As the title suggests, it is styled as a collection of Parish Newsletters, written by Father Ted Crilly himself. Along with editorials from Father Ted and several guest columns by Mrs. Doyle are collected articles about such topics as the history of Craggy Island and (so-called) Great Priests.
As a big fan of the television series, I first read The Craggy Island Parish Magazines in the early 2000s. I wasn’t hugely excited by it but, upon discovering it on ebay earlier this year, decided to give it a second go.
The book begins well. Ted’s voice is strong and perfectly in keeping with his television persona. The concept is clever, too, and the early articles about the history of Craggy Island are just bizarre enough to feel like the true history of this fictional place. However, the reading experience dulls as the book progresses. Repeated inclusions, such as Jim Sullivan’s sketches, soon tire, and the second half of the book feels less like a true tie-in and more like a collection of odd writings. (‘The Miraculous Power of Eggs’ is a key example.)
Most of all, though, the book suffers from a lack of content involving the fantastic characters that make the television show what it is. Ted is there, certainly, but there are only a few mentions of Jack and Dougal. Bishop Brennan gets one tiny post-script.
I love a good TV tie-in, but The Craggy Island Parish Magazines left me wanting something more. It’s a pleasant enough way of spending an hour or so, but a couple of episodes of the original programme would be a better choice.
Wheels is just an average teenager – until both of his parents are killed in a car accident. Suddenly, he has to learn to deal with living with his grandparents, his school friends treating him strangely and regular nightmares, all while coping with his all-consuming grief. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Wheels goes a little off the rails. Pushing his best friends, Joey and Snake, and his grandparents away, he instead starts to spend time with life-hardened Barry and Tami. But are Wheels’s new friends really friends, and what will happen when his choices begin to catch up to him?
Wheels is a fiction tie-in to the television series ‘Degrassi Junior High’. Instead of creating a new story for the book series, Susin Nielsen instead has produced a novelisation of one of the television storylines. As such, the plot is familiar to fans of the original. However, Nielsen does a good job of writing the novel in such a way that a reader with no previous knowledge of ‘Degrassi’ would still be able to understand and enjoy it.
Television tie-ins – and especially novelisations of actual episodes – tend to be less than stellar examples of the literary arts. I was pleasantly surprised by Wheels, however. It’s a solid YA novel that deals with death and loss with empathy. I personally struggled to read about certain aspects of Wheels’s behaviour, but that was not an issue with the writing so much as his disregard for the people around him, and for his grieving grandmother in particular.
There were a couple of things I disliked about the book, however. Twice, Wheels is approached and placed in threatening situations by predatory older men. Once might have been okay, if dealt with appropriately, but twice makes me feel like the author has an agenda. In contrast, she portrays the relationship between Barry and Tami – which is implied to be sexual in nature – as being perfectly okay, despite the fact that he is eighteen and she only fourteen, and a survivor of previous sexual abuse at that.
Still, despite my reservations, Wheels could have been a lot worse.