A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Here Be Monsters!, the first volume in the Ratbridge Chronicles series, "inspired" the 2014 movie The Boxtrolls but involves completely different characters in a similar universe. First published in 2006, the book's been a hit with reluctant readers in particular, offering a satisfying, eventful plot moved along nicely by the author's quirky illustrations, found on nearly every page. Kids who love tales that combine adventure, laughs, creepiness, and appealing, oddball characters will be in heaven as young Arthur and his many friends -- humans, animals, and underground creatures alike -- struggle to foil over-the-top evildoers before it's too late. Sensitive kids may be upset by the horrible fates that befall sheep-like cheeses in the tale: They're relentlessly hunted, injected with toxins in labs, and eventually locked in a cage that's lowered into a giant pot of boiling fondue.
What's the story?
One night in the polluted, dystopian town of Ratbridge, an oddly dressed boy named Arthur, who lives with his grandfather in the tunnels beneath the city, emerges looking for food. Things quickly go awry; he can't get home again because all portals to the underground world have been glued shut by villains up to no good. But, fortunately, he soon falls in with a friendly, if peculiar, collection of characters, from retired lawyer Willbury and inventor Marjorie to the various dwellers of the underground, including boxtrolls and cabbageheads as well as a crew of rats and men who, due to a downturn in the pirate business, support themselves by taking in laundry. Together they must get Arthur home to his grandfather -- and foil a plot that seems to involve the torture and killing of sheep-like cheeses.
Is it any good?
HERE BE MONSTERS is a wild concoction of whimsy, satire, creepiness, and slapstick. At 544 pages, it may seem alarmingly hefty, but author Alan Snow propels things at a fast clip with a deftly crafted narrative and plentiful illustrations. Many of the elements here are well worn -- intrepid kid! Pirates! Weird inventions! Fiendish villains! Dystopian worlds! Evil greed! -- but they all come together here with a madcap Roald-Dahl-meets-Monty-Python sensibility.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories about friendly monsters are so popular. Do you like them better than stories about scary monsters? What are your favorite stories with monster characters?
Do you know any other stories about inventors whose clever creations are hijacked for evil purposes? How do they turn out?
Do you think the pictures help tell the story here? Would it be as fun without them?
- Author: Alan Snow
- Illustrator: Alan Snow
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum
- Publication date: July 1, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 14
- Number of pages: 544
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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