Professor Puffendorf is the world's
greatest scientist. Her laboratory is a wonderful place full of strange
machines that hiss and squeak, and an old cabinet marked 'Top Secret'. And in
that cabinet lie her secret potions that can make your wildest dreams come true.
One day she goes out and leaves her assistant, Enzo, behind with her
pet guinea-pig, Chip. Now is Enzo's chance to steal the potions, but first he
has to try them out on chip. Will they work? What will happen to Chip? And
what will happen to Enzo?
The books is being billed as having
all the best qualities of British outrageousness just this side of Monty Python.
In our household it stirred a long, serious discussion - never
punctuated with laughter - about professional opportunities for women. And for
that I'm thankful to Robin Tzannes for PROFESSOR PUFFENDORF'S SECRET POTION.
She reminded me of the powerful impact stories have on the minds and
identities of children and that children's book authors, in trying to reflect
the reality of society for authenticity's sake, can unwittingly perpetuate
sexual stereotypes. She also demonstrated how ingrained the stereotypes are.
For, despite the fact I had never discussed professors and scientists with my
daughter, she determined those to be male occupations when we began to read the
story about the world's greatest scientist.
Barely a page had been covered when my daughter stopped to laugh at
what she saw as being another 'funny' part of the story. 'The author has mixed
things up. Professor Puffendorf couldn't be a woman, scientists are men.'
(Yikes! Mom says to herself.) Needless to say, mother and daughter deviated
from Tzanne's prose to discuss the error of these views.
On return to the script, we were titillated by the tales of the
remarkable female scientist who has such inventions to her credit as Unburnable
Toast, Banana-matic and Smell-o-Telephone.
She also has a loathsome slothful male assistant who schemes ways to
gain financial reward from Professor Puffendorf's secret inventions. As events
prove, there is good reason he is the assistant and Puffendorf the boss. All
his conspiratorial plots and schemes backfire in a big way. By never thinking
beyond his nose, he literally trades places with a laboratory guinea pig.
By now, both mother and daughter are laughing and I think what else
can a children's book be expected to deliver; Tzanne's book prompted serious
observations on life and offered us the chance to laugh as well. To boot, Korky
Paul's comic-style illustrations are richly detailed and match the story's
TIMES COLONIST 25 APRIL 93, Carolyn Heiman
Plenty of laughs to be had
at the expense of a greedy layabout called Enzo in PROFESSOR PUFFENDORF'S SECRET
POTIONS by Korky Paul and Robin Tzannes.
Richly detailed drawings are great fun to pore over and I
particularly enjoyed the fact that the professor is a woman!
OXFORD STAR 24 DEC 92, Maria Mastroddi
A sense of humour adds
immensely to any story for children, and this is much in evidence in Robin
Tzannes' PROFESSOR PUFFENDORF'S SECRET POTIONS, where the professor demonstrates
her latest inventions, including 'unburnable toast'! The professor's
disgruntled assistant comes to an unhappy end when he starts to meddle with her
'top secret' potions. Visually, in Korky Paul's illustrations, the book is
CHILDREN'S BOOKS IN IRELAND DEC 95
Mad scientists never die,
they just get re-constructed. The one in PROFESSOR PUFFENDORF'S SECRET POTIONS
is female, with stiletto heels, a mean perm, a punk assistant and a put-upon
guinea-pig, but the lab equipment in Korky Paul's impressively manic
illustrations is pure Heath-Robinson and the story turns (as they nearly always
seem to) on luridly coloured elixirs. Silly good fun.
THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 22 NOV 92, Candice Rodd