Saturday, 5 March 2011

Review: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert (Mega Mash-Up) by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson

Deep in the desert, Gorillas trade the oil under their city for bananas grown by hi-tech Robots. But after Gadget the Great accidentally sends 10,000 volts of electricity up King Well-Hairy's nose, the robots and gorillas decide to sort things out once and for all: whoever wins will have all the oil and all the bananas. Which side will manage to avoid the garlic burp-breath sand slugs? Who will be deceived by the banana sundae mirages? And when will they realise that they forgot to agree on a finishing line?

I read a huge amount as a child, but I had friends who didn't. I have had conversations with them as adults, and looking back they feel that reading was too passive an activity for them. They couldn't sit still long enough to follow a story, and even on a wet day they would give up and go an do something else instead. A couple of them state that they can remember the moment books started to become more interesting, and it was when they first discovered Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first book in their long-running and phenomenally successful Fighting Fantasy series. Even though these friends were sport mad, and would treat anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons with disdain, this create your own adventure story, and all those that followed, struck a chord with them and all of a sudden they were reading books during school break times, swapping them one they had been completed. These books made reading a fun pastime for them and many of them are still avid readers today thanks to these books.

There are many, many choose your own adventure books around these days (including the oft re-published Fighting Fantasy series), but now author/illustrators Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, in conjunction with Nosy Crow, a relatively new independent publisher of children's books, have come up with a great new concept that makes reading even more interactive for the 6+ age group. They have recognised that children love activity books, and whilst many boys may be reluctant to pick up a book and read they are often more than happy to sit doodling for hours, often with very comedic results. Why not, then, produce a book that tells a story, include crazy and hilarious illustrations, but also leave spaces for the reader to fill in further illustrations using their own imaginations?

But the cleverness doesn't stop there. Nosy Crow did a survey, asking boys in this age group what they really liked, the results of which can be found here, and they they used this list in the creation of the Mega Mash-Up books. And so we have titles like: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert, and Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars (both published last month), and coming up in June, Pirates Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum, and Aliens v Mad Scientists Under the Ocean. Pure genius!

I have a copy of Robots v Gorillas in the Desert in front of me at the moment, and it is brilliant. I can't believe there is a 6-9 year old boy out there who will not be enchanted by this book, and if they are as cool as this one the rest in the series as well. Marketed well and given the exposure they deserve, these books could become huge, with boys comparing their drawings and ideas in the playground, having competitions as to who can come up with the coolest doodles and additions to the story.  If you are a parent of a boy in this age range you would be a fool not to get these for your son, and they should certainly become must-haves for those long holiday journeys and wet afternoons during school holidays. 

Nosy Crow also have a fantastic Mega Mash-Up website with all kinds of cool extra stuff, as well as a gallery where young readers can have their own doodles in the books showcased. My thanks go to the publishers for sending me a copy of the book to review.


  1. That looks so cool. My library wishlist grows every time I visit your blog lol

  2. Nikalas & Tim are appearing at the Haringey Children's Literature Festival this Saturday! It's a free festival - check it out: