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How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen (Captain Najork #1)
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How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen

(Captain Najork #1)

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  355 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Tom likes fooling around and is rather good at it, much to the annoyance of his Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong. So one day this fearsome lady decides to teach Tom a lesson and summons Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen to play womble, muck and sneedball. Can it possibly end well for all concerned?
Paperback, 32 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by David R. Godine (first published November 1st 1974)
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Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Readers Who Enjoy Quirky Madcap Stories
Shelves: picture-books
Prolific American children's author Russell Hoban, justly celebrated for his classic Frances stories, and English illustrator Quentin Blake, probably best known for his work on Roald Dahl's books, collaborated on a number of picture-books, amongst them this amusing tale of high-jinks and high drama, as a young boy with a penchant for fooling around confronts a professional sportsman and his four assistants, hired to teach him a lesson. Unfortunately for Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen, To ...more
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The other day Alan Jacobs tweeted: Do yourself a favor & find a used copy of the best children's book EVER, Hoban's *How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen.*

Well, I didn't need to find a used copy, because my local public library has three take-outable copies, and I took one out, and of course read it in five minutes, and will go back and read it again. The Quentin Blake pictures add enormously to the delight of this book, in which a boy who fools around a lot manages to be the hero
Oct 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: kids who have trouble sitting still
Shelves: picture
The title is a pretty clear tip-off that the fooling-around little boy is going to triumph over the strict aunt and stuck-up Captain, but it is still a lot of fun to read. And in fact there is a happy ending for everyone!
Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
A gift from a friend, who when she brought it, said, "I know this is bringing coals to Newcastle..." for which use of that phrase I will always love her, if I didn't already, which I do.

Her daughter, who is four, adores this silly book. My kids do, too. And Russell Hoban is one of my favorite authors of all time. Not only did he write the Bedtime for Frances books, but he also wrote Riddley Walker, on my list of my favorite ten books of ALL TIME. That book is set in a postapocalyptic Britain, an
Amy Aldridge
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
A lovely story, that has the chance to be relatable to many children who get told not to fiddle with things all the time! And how actually, this can be of benefit to them if they utilise it in the right way. Beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake, and fantastic use of language that could lead to a lot of work in English around his writing choices.
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Read this with my kids (6&7) - it took a while for them to get engaged with the story but by the end they were cheering Tom on.

Quentin Blake's illustrations really brought the story to life and gave us even more to talk about as we read together.
Tom lived with his maiden aunt Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong. She wore an iron hat, and thought Tom played too much, but Tom was only fooling around. She called in Captain Najork, and his hired sportsmen to teach Tom a lesson, but it was Tom who turned the tables on his Aunt, and the Captain.
Cybelle Weeks
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Adorable and should be read frequently!
Sarah Spice
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I think I must have missed something here as I really didn't enjoy this book very much. It has some great words and names in it but I thought the story was very thin.
Andy Hall
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is an impressive book, I admit it freely.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pgce-reading-log
A young boy is challenged by his aunt to stop fooling around and faces off against Captain Najork. Not too keen. Quite boring, too many nonsense words. Would be nice as just a generic story.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Goofy but fun. Very fast read. Recommended by Emma.
Luke Nicholls
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
One of my all-time favourite picture books. A wonderfully quirky and imaginative romp through the life of Tom, a boy who does what all boys do. Great for younger kids.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Foolish & delightful. Would v much like a go at sneedball. ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best children's books I've ever read. It is for the age when they are ready for offbeat humor.
Nikki Turner
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was an absolute childhood favourite. My mother read it to me before I was able to read it to myself. With it's beautiful illustrations and quirky humour this is a classic for younger readers.
D.G. Post
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is pure gold <3 ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Tom liked to fool around. . . . He did low and muddy fooling around and he did high and wobbly fooling around." But "It looks very like playing to me," says his maiden Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong who wears an iron hat and takes no nonsense from anyone, and so she sends for Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen ("They play hard games and they play them jolly hard") to teach Tom a lesson. But even though it's Tom alone against everyone else, he just mucks and fools around and puts them all to sha ...more
Erin O'connor
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books from childhood this book extols the virtues of being relaxed, having fun and messing around. In it a little boy, Tom, is looked after by his very serious Aunt Figit Wonkamstrong. He likes to fool around and she disapproves. She sends off for Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to come and teach Tom a lesson and they perform a number of fantastic competitions such as "womble, muck, sneedball". Tom beats them at every turn and it is delightful. At the end Tom runs away ...more
El Ashfield
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is potentially the best book I have ever read. I think I am actually in it. For anyone who has ever loved messing around with paperclips, and dropping things off bridges, and fishing them out again. This story is all about Tom, the rebel, and how he beats Captain Najork and his band of men at their own (rather different) games. Brilliant naming prevails during this book - particularly like the game called "Sneedball" and Tom's "Aunt Bundlejoy Cosysweet" - I think I have met her. Not for sti ...more
Micki James
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've been looking for this book for years, based on a reference to it in The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature that it "colludes with the child reader against an adult world". I finally got a copy from Europe. When it came I was surprised it was so short; I had forgotten it was a children's picture book. My nine-year-old daughter read it first. I am afraid she stumped me on questions like "what are bloaters" and not until I read the book did I realize I am old enough now to be on the los ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
My daughter Kate rated these two Captain Najork books and I think she is right to do so. Sure they are children's books, but I doubt the little blighters appreciate what's in front of them. (They only read at one level you know.) Tom versus the hired sportsmen is the better of the two and it is really hysterical. Although this is a very English book, Hoban is an American, and we should claim him as our very own genius of the absurd.
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
My sister Maria gave me this book for my 50th birthday. I'm not sure if that says something about me or something about her.

It's a cute little story about the benefits of "fooling around".

I like the illustrations.

I'm not sure what age children this is supposed to be for. It has a lot of words for a children's book. But it isn't a chapter book. If your child is too young to read it themselves you can read it to them.
Illustrated by Quentin Blake (often seen in Roald Dahl’s books), this is my favorite for read-aloud or for readers just jumping into chapter books. Kids will cheer on Tom, a boy who is very good at fooling around, when his iron-hatted aunt calls fearsome Captain Najork and his hired men to teach him a lesson…especially when it turns out Tom is very good at sneedball and womble, too.
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This picture book is now part of our homeschool curriculum, and we actually reward our boys for fooling around. Besides that, the pictures are funny and we love the story. Just to let you know, last time I played Womble, at the end of the snetch I won by 3 ladders. Fooling around really pays off.
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
A wonderful book, proving the joy and value of messing around aimlessly, especially if you have two horrible aunts. Tom's aunts hire Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen to put Tom to rights, but a boy who has spent his time getting up to mischief is more than a match for them. My year 3 class loved this book.
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
My four year old daughter loves this book. We read it daily.

Ridiculous story about a boy who excels at fooling around. Blake's illustrations are perfect at capturing the eccentric characters, the language is imaginative and wonderful. Incredibly fun book for anyone who appreciates mischief.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all-time favorite children's books. Who can resist the tomfoolery of this book's protagonist as he attempts to evade the watchful eye of his Aunt Fidget Wonkum Strong, who wears an iron hat, and the infamous Captain Najork?
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This book is as quirky and fun as the title suggests. Sadly, it is out-of-print and ridiculously expensive. I had the good fortune of finding it at a thrift store this week for $1. Any locals who would like to read it are welcome to borrow our copy.
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended by Laura Pemberton. This is a book to make moms who are perhaps too fussy about danger and dirt reconsider! And it has plenty of nonsense (or perhaps supersense?) words to entertain such a creatively wordy family as ours.
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Russell Conwell Hoban was an American expatriate writer. His works span many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction, magical realism, poetry, and children's books. He lived in London, England, from 1969 until his death. (Wikipedia)

Other books in the series

Captain Najork (2 books)
  • A Near Thing for Captain Najork (Captain Najork #2)

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  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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