How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen

Written by Russell Hoban
Illustrated by Quentin Blake

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

A must-read for anyone who thinks that fooling about is a waste of time! Through the brilliant combination of Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake, the story celebrates all the skills that children learn on their own. Tom likes nothing more than messing about whether it is sliding in the mud, wobbling about on high and dangerous things, dropping things from bridges and fishing them out or rolling around in barrels in alleys. His aunt disapproves of all such activities and threatens him with Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen who are known to be able to knock anyone into shape. But it turns out that Tom has learnt some things after all…as the title reveals!


How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban

Tom loves to fool around. He fools around with dropping things from bridges into rivers and he fools around with barrels in alleys. He fools around so much that his maiden aunt, Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong (who wears an iron hat and takes no nonsense from anyone), sends for Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to teach Tom a lesson. Captain Najork, says Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong, is seven feet tall, with eyes like fire and a voice like thunder. He teaches fooling-around boys the lesson they so badly need, and it is not one that they soon forget. Captain Najork lays down a challenge: they will play womble, muck and speedball - in that order. And it turns out not to be Tom who gets taught a lesson after all!

This is a classic tale of the triumph of fooling-around fun over humourless no-nonsense adult disapproval! This title was a HUGE favourite of thousands of '70s and '80s kids who are now book-buying parents. It deals with an eternally popular theme of a young hero's resourceful defiance of a despotic figure of authority. It is laugh-out-loud funny no matter how many times you re-read it.


The partnership between author and illustrator is almost perfect, their resourcefulness in making such absurdity so natural almost the equal of the boy Tom in his creation of the two-seater, jam-powered frog. The Times A perfect combination of words and illustration, it's everything a picture book should be. -- Anna Carey Irish Times Rarely has a reissue been more timely than this reminder that learning comes in many forms, and that childhood play is never a waste of time. -- Julia Eccleshare The Guardian A triumph from an unerringly eccentric double act. -- Kate Kellaway The New Review (The Observer) The duo's 1975 riotous tribute to the triumphs of 'fooling around

's colourful illustrations inject energy and excitement into this madcap adventure. Children's Books Ireland Recommended Read'

About the Author

Russell Hoban

As a child

Russell Hoban was born in Pennsylvania, USA. His parents were Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine; his father was the advertising manager of a Jewish newspaper as well as a dram guild director. Russell was thus exposed to the arts early on, and became interested in writing at an early age, winning prizes for his stories and poems during his school years.

As an adult

Russell served in the US Infantry during WWII. For a time he taught art in New York and Connecticut. He then worked as a freelance illustrator and an advertising copywriter. He began publishing children's books in 1958, and since then has published more than fifty. His picture book The Sea-Thing Child, illustrated by Patrick Benson, was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Russell passed away at the age of 86 in 2011.

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Book Info


32 pages
Interest Age: From 5


Russell Hoban
More books by Russell Hoban

Author's Website


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

7th November 2013




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