As promised in Hayley’s last review, it’s time to move away from the indefatigable Anh Do, if only temporarily, and look at a children’s book from another Australian writer, courtesy once again of the kind people at Allen & Unwin. Today we’ll be focusing on the latest book in a series featuring some children with a rather unusual hobby. You see, while I often call my little helper a monster, the protagonists of my daughter’s latest choice have actually made their own. Confused? Well, I’ll let Hayley explain what it’s all about 😉
What’s the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called Flummox: How to Make a Pet Monster 2, and it’s written by Lili Wilkinson and illustrated by Dustin Spence.
What’s it about?
It’s about a boy called Artie and a girl called Willow who are step-brother and step-sister. They found a monster book, and after Artie made his own monster called Hodgepodge, this time Willow wants to make a monster, too. But, unfortunately, their neighbour Arabella-Rose comes to have a playdate and ruins the experiment, and Willow’s monster likes Arabella-Rose more!
Did you like it? Why (not)?
Yes, because I liked the monsters and how sometimes they were pretty smart and helped the children when they had problems.
What was your favourite part?
Probably when they made Flummox!
Was it difficult to read?
Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls? Why (not)?
Yes, especially if they like monsters and action!
Hayley, thank you very much 🙂
There’s actually an interesting story behind how we first heard about this series. Last winter, when we in Melbourne were in the middle of an extended lockdown, I was playing teacher to Hayley during home school and helping her make her way through the weekly learning grid. Fridays were usually a little more relaxed than the rest of the week, and on one of these Fridays, we were pointed in the direction of a short talk given by writer Lili Wilkinson as part of a virtual Melbourne Writers Festival, entitled The Power of Creating Stories. In this short video, the author discusses how she came up with the idea for her book Hodgepodge: How to Make a Pet Monster, and it wasn’t long before my little monster decided she’d quite like to read it 😉
The story is told by Artie, a young boy who has moved to live in a new house with his mum and her new partner. He has bigger problems than wondering how to address ‘David Cole’, though. For one thing, there’s David’s grungy daughter Willow to contend with – for another, there’s the fact that the house looks as if it’s the setting for a horror movie, especially the attic:
Under the dirty old sheet is a dirty old chest.
The kind of dirty old chest that a monster might hide in if they were real. WHICH I DO NOT BELIEVE THEY ARE. And even though I am so scared I think I might throw up, I open the chest.
There isn’t a monster inside. Or a skeleton.
There’s a book, which is MUCH more interesting. It’s called THE BIGGE BOKE OF FETCHING MONSTERS. I think ‘bigge boke’ just means ‘big book’ in old-time language. ‘Monsters’ definitely doesn’t mean real monsters though.
pp.12/3 (Allen & Unwin, 2020)
Yeah, about that… I think we all know what happens next, and various hi-jinks ensue as Artie and Willow try to keep their creation a secret.
The second book, then, begins with the attempt to make a new monster for Willow, but the pair are disturbed by the arrival of another young girl, the new neighbour Arabella-Rose:
Arabella-Rose doesn’t seem to notice the tension. ‘Here are some interesting things about me,’ she says. ‘I am twelve years old. My favourite colour is gold. I don’t like spiders or cottage cheese. I’m going to be an actress and a singer. I brought my scrapbook of all the different performances I’ve done, and all my favourite shows. Would you like to see it? Would you like to hear me sing now?’
p.14 (Allen & Unwin, 2021)
As you can imagine, the newcomer is a bit of a third wheel, particularly given her arrival in the middle of their latest experiment, but when another unwelcome visitor arrives, the pair will be glad to have someone to help them get out of trouble.
I can’t say this is one for grown-ups, with a fair few fart jokes floating around, but it’s perfect for younger readers, with large print and lots of pictures, and Hayley had great fun with it. It also seems as if there’s a greater mystery underpinning the series, and the end of this second part sees our young heroes discovering that their creepy house might be hiding more secrets than they’d imagined… I suspect that there’ll be a third book, and creature, appearing at some point, so if you think this sounds like something for *your* little monster, you might want to introduce them to Hodgepodge and Flummox soon 🙂