Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow

529 p. Fantasy/Humor

Under cover of night Arthur uses mechanical wings to fly through the streets of Ratbridge foraging for food. One night, he surfaces from his Underworld home stumbling upon an illegal cheese hunt. A man called Snatcher and his associates are capturing cheese to make a nefarious fondue. Worse yet, Snatcher seals the holes that lead to the Underworld trapping Arthur in Ratbridge. Arthur then discovers that peaceful creatures from the Underworld are disappearing from their homes. Several rats have also gone missing from a former pirate ship in the harbor that now acts as a first-rate laundering service. Arthur teams up with the pirates on a rescue mission to save the captured rats and Underworld creatures and – hopefully – to find a way back home to his grandfather.

Snow is a fantastic creature creator. There are cabbageheads, green-thumbed critters who wear cabbages upon their heads. There are the boxtrolls, gentle fanged mechanical geniuses in box outfits. There are the rabbit women in their knitted rabbit suits. They were once girls who fell down rabbit holes to be raised by the rabbits.
Featuring a climactic cheese explosion and a butt shrinking machine, the humor here is perfectly pitched for 3rd & 4th grades, but the length and the Briticisms make it better for 5th & 6th grade readers or strong younger readers. There are over 500 illustrations throughout so you don’t need to guess what a rabbit woman looks like. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake’s work together, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Dahl and to readers who appreciate Daniel Pinkwater.

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