Monsters are tricky, beasties are mean - this huge purple monster is the furriest I've seen...
Making a rare exception, we reviewed The Fearsome Beastie in its pre-published, pdf version. For me, it is difficult to objectively review something seen off a computer screen as you don’t benefit from the full “book experience”. You can’t touch the illustrations; feel the crispness of the pages or inhale that new book smell… Fortunately, Paley-Philips’ first children’s book is easy to imagine as a chunky hardback, with its vibrant colour scheme and winsome illustrations.
A horrible beastie comes out of the woods; he’s hairy and huge, with dripping jaws and is quite terrifying. When the children hear him crying to himself, they assume that he must be a big softie really, but they soon discover that beasties are very, very cunning. Can anyone stop the bad beastie from munching all the children?
The beastie itself is that curious creation of scary-cuteness that is the preserve of children’s literature. Half lump of purple fluff; half scarily long toothed and clawed monster – our beastie is perfect for its target audience’s age group. And whilst it’s fair to say that visually it’s not hugely innovative; the fact that it brings to mind a purple ‘Gruffalo’ can hardly been seen as a drawback.
The book itself remains attuned to Paley-Philips’ passion for poetry. His use of rhyming couplets helps younger children maintain interest, as well as providing a clear meter for the reader to follow; the undulating ebb and flow of text comfortingly and soothingly as familiar as a favourite toy. And it all begins rather well with the narrative being unhindered by the confinements of the literary device. There are a few weaker couplets around the middle section, which could have been tweaked for perfection, and there is a noticeable reduction in the latent cheekiness that we were expecting after There’s a Lion in My Bathroom, making The Fearsome Beastie a ringer for the younger age group (under 5's).
For some reason, this bothers me. I was anticipating scallywag nonsense, rascally mischief and sublime wit; but the language is more muted. Calmer. Moderated. Which is all very good and well, except I was just hoping for a bit more edge. The rhymes are simplistic, but sound. The illustrations are rounded and cutsey - and I quite like the illustrator’s characterisation. But the story is less Roald Dahl than Michael Rosen; and the illustrations less quirky than Quentin Blake and more Camilla Reid, which won’t concern most people but dampens my view. Of course, it would be tough to emulate such big shoes. I still have my hopes though and will certainly be looking out for more of Paley-Philips’ work.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012