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

Award-winning duo Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake are brilliantly witty in this sharply observed picture of the value of childhood pursuits. Orphaned Tom lives with his formidable aunt who takes no nonsense from anyone and serves perfectly disgusting food. Tom pays her little heed. He likes to fool around, mostly outside in squelchy stuff or up high on dangerous structures. To his aunt, it looks suspiciously as if he is just playing. To make Tom conform, she brings along Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen, a team famed for their skill at playing hard games. Whatever can Tom do next? How Tom wins is a celebration of child-power.


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

This is a classic tale of the triumph of fooling-around fun over humourless no-nonsense adult disapproval!

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 HUGE favourite of thousands of '70s and '80s kids who are now book-buying parents. It features the 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.


In this ebullient classic...Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake champion children and their powers of self-determination. -- Julia Eccleshare The Guardian Zany and anarchic The School Librarian Some picture book pairings are inspired and Quentin Blake/Russell Hoban definitely fall into that category. Tom likes to fool around - so much that his maiden aunt, Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong, threatens to send for Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to teach Tom a lesson. But even that doesn't stop Tom's foolery (did you notice that too?) so along comes Captain Najork. He challenges Tom to womble, muck and speedball but Tom turns the tables in this endlessly imaginative quirky story with its amazing use of vocabulary Parents in Touch

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


40 pages
Interest Age: From 5


Russell Hoban
More books by Russell Hoban

Author's Website


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

3rd April 2014




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