Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Book Reviews: RWS No.42 'Thomas and his Friends'


Written by
Christopher Awdry

Illustrated by
Clive Spong

Thomas and the Swan
Buffer Bashing
Gordon's Fire Service

 Release Year

In late 2010, Sodor Island Fansite (SIF) had announced from Egmont that a new Railway Series book is in the works to celebrate the centennial year on what was to be Rev.W.Awdry's 100th birthday in 2011. Rev.W.Awdry had unfortunately passed away in 1997. 


The book contains the usual amount, with the exception of 'Henry the Green Engine' having five stories, the usual amount is four stories. Here are my views on each of the story:

The story does tend to be adapted from one of Christopher Awdry's early stories used in the 1992 annual, mostly the conflict between Thomas' crew and the swan, with some differences through other parts of the story. We see Pip and Emma once again, after their last appearance in 'Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines' in 1995, which would've been 16 years ago at the time this book was published. It's bit strange now that Pip and Emma are still in their InterCity livery despite that they could've been owned by a privatisation company by now. The Railway Series books tend to be set in real time. But what I think was a bit surprising was that Gordon became a local engine, hauling trains to each stop, for timetable reasons as the express. The story overall is good and simple and gives kids the message on why animals are important when they're needed in special care and that they can be fragile. 

Rating: 8/10

To be honest, this has to be the worst Railway Series story I've read. At the time I thought it was the best but after reading over and over again I realised that it sends a poor message to children. You have in the story Donald smashing into the buffers and all the engines, including himself, had a laugh about and just said that it was only an accident. But when Douglas did the same thing, due to his poor brakes, he was scolded at and was left red paint on his nose as reminder, yes liberal parents it's red paint. Look in the picture before you write your poorly researched editorials for click bait. While yes it has been three days working on the buffers at least maybe understand that it's an accident. It's very poor and it sends the wrong message out to kids.

Rating: 1/10

I find this story to be better then the last two. It definitely shows Gordon's maturity of hauling local trains and it was great to hear the Peel Godred line having a mention. Although I do wish they've shown the electric engines. It shows children that despite electric engines having no need for water and coal, steam engines have their uses too, especially when it comes to fire.

Rating: 9/10

With 2011 marking 100 years since Rev.W.Awdry's birth, this story was made by his son in honour of his father. I love how over the years the stories have implemented real people like the late Rev.W.Awdry, the late Teddy Boston etc. to give that real feeling of Sodor despite being fictional. But despite that the story has that feeling of a 'Golden Jubilee' rehash. The only difference is the accident with Henry's tunnel unlike the spider's web incident, although the latter did have reason on what it was going to be used for later. Whereas the one here was out of nowhere. It's not a terrible story but it's not that great either.

Rating: 5/10


The pictures were done once again by Clive Spong, who had illustrated Christopher Awdry's books from 1983-1996 and in 2007 for 'Thomas and Victoria'. I've always liked Spong's illustrations as it gives that friendly feeling of Sodor with some realism and accuracy of the engines. His style feels like C. Reginald Dalby, as what the publishers in 1983 at the time says when it comes to the resurface of the Railway Series. 


At the time of its release, the books ends with the words 'The End'. At the time of its release, Series 15 had just aired on the TV and the series went through the worst writing from a production team who were treating Thomas as another kids show. But since it's been nearly five years since then and now that we have a new production team that understands the history of Thomas, I don't think we need more Railway Series books. I don't hate the Railway Series books but we have about 42 books in the series that have lasted for seven decades now! 

The stories in the books are timeless classics filled with simple stories but with strong characters and are being celebrated each time now how the way the television series is progressing with its own stories with influence from the Railway Series, e.g - 'The Adventure Begins'. Plus young children of the target audience aren't missing out on anything. Now with the DVDs and on YouTube we have the new Mr. Perkins segments giving story time to the children of the stories with the original pictures as well as ones made by Lorraine Marshall. 

So I think it's time to let the books have a rest, sure there's Barry but I doubt that book would ever see a light of day. Christopher Awdry is getting old and his son Richard Awdry isn't interested in writing though and plus not many ideas can turn out good. If I give one recommendation though, if you enjoyed the Railway Series I suggest being a member of Sodor Island Forums for their 'Extended Railway Series'. It's fan made but they give the style of the Awdry family's books. 


I do consider this book to be weak compare to the other titles. The title of the book sounds generic and not that catching compare to other titles, but I believe it's to sell. It has some good stories but not the best.