Monday, 29 December 2014

The Squickerwonkers Review

Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Evangeline Lilly

Illustrated By
Johnny Fraser-Allen

Foreword By
Peter Jackson
Fran Walsh
Philippa Boyens

Published By
Titan Books


Meet Selma of the Rin-Run Royals, a clever little girl who is spoiled to the core.  One day Selma stumbles upon a band of colorful marionettes, and gets more than she bargained for.

The remarkable Squickerwonkers of the fabulous Squickershow are about to teach Selma that she'll not always get her way.


You will have noticed these days that I don't really review half as many children's books and movies as I used to.  That's for a very simple reason.  They've become way too safe and come across as sounding and looking exactly the same.  I remember growing up with people like Spike Milligan and Roald Dahl giving us tales that would excite us, make us laugh and even scare us witless sometimes.  Here, in the foreword, they point out that the world has stopped wanting to scare little children and instead have become too clinical with their stories.  That is a very well made point and one that I agree with totally.

Then this book came along.  Written by the actress, Evangeline Lilly, this book is the complete opposite of the books I have just mentioned.  In fact, it takes an almost devilish glee in the fact that the story has a dark side, that it comes across as a little off kilter and that it has a deep morality tale beneath the surface.

The thing that struck me the most were the nods to the Roald Dahl stories of old but also the little darkly comic moments that Spike Milligan was famous for.  It has both of those influences yet retains an utterly unique voice of its own.  That's one of the things that I loved about the story itself.  It pushes the morality tale of selfishness and mean spirited behaviour but in a way that it feels like it could possibly be an animated tale by Tim Burton or even a Neil Gaiman project such as Coraline.  When I was reading this to my five year old son, Cyrus, he was enthralled for the entire length of the story then even wanted me to read it for a second time as soon as the story was finished.

As well as the supremely entertaining story by Lilly, you have some very darkly beautiful artwork by Johnny Fraser-Allen.  I wasn't all that familiar with his work before I read this book but I'm definitely going to take a look for more by Fraser-Allen if this is anything to go by.  His use of sharp angles, darkness and the gorgeous settings really bring the story to life in a big way.

If you are a parent longing for the darker tales that your parents told you growing up, the ones that scared you yet you wanted more of, then this is definitely one well worth picking up to read to your little ones.  With a gripping story that has a great sting in the tail as well as some truly beautiful art work then I can't recommend this high enough.

Story 9/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 35/40

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