Saturday, 15 August 2015

Review: The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing by Barry Hutchison (illustrated by Chris Mould)

In an alternate 15th century, where dragons roam, sailing ships transform into submarines, and blacksmiths build steampunk robots, ten-year-old orphan Benjamin Blank battles monsters, rescues maidens and discovers fantastic new lands, but never quite manages to get his homework handed in on time.

Each adventure sees Ben and his friends, Paradise Little and Wesley Chant, face a new monstrous menace.

Benjamin Blank dreams of becoming a monster-vanquishing warrior. Unfortunately for Ben, his mechanical-armed blacksmith uncle feels that he just might be a little too young to be battling dangerous creatures such as ogres. However, when Paradise Little, a girl from a nearby village, begs Uncle Tavish for his help in destroying the monster that is terrorising them, mistaken in the belief that he is a warrior blacksmith, Ben steps up and offers his services. In desperation she reluctantly accepts his offer, and so begins an adventure involving a cowardly wizard called Wesley, a game of Burp or Death with a troll, and, of course, the climactic fight with the titular Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.

With his two fabulous Afterworlds books, author Barry Hutchison has already proved that he can write very funny stories for the older middle grade/lower YA audience. Now he has done just the same for 7+ kids. The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing is a pants-wettingly funny adventure story, with a misfit bunch of loveable and occasionally inept main characters. The story is complemented by the wonderfully comedic illustrations of Chris Mould that capture the hilarious tone of Hutchison's writing perfectly.

The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing is just the first in a series of adventures for Benjamin Blank and his new friends. The Swivel-Eyed Ogre-Thing was published in June, and the third book in the series, The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing, is due to be published in October. If the sequels are anything like the first book in the series then they will make perfect bedtime reading for young readers, either on their own or read by a parent. My thanks go to the wonderful people at Nosy Crow for sending me a copy to read.

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