Nobody Likes a Goblin

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Nobody Likes a Goblin Book Poster Image
Outcast goblin proves courageous in mythic adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to fantasy, characters such as goblins, trolls, and elves, and ideas of dungeon and treasure room. Introduction to vocabulary such as "spoils" and "adventurers."

Positive Messages

Sometimes people dislike you and call you names, but it doesn't reflect your character. Loyalty to friends is a good quality. Even when you feel afraid, you can find the courage to act. Help can come at unexpected times and from unforeseen forces. Outcast communities can find their voice and power and become strong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Goblin is at first shown to be (understandably) fearful but finds his courage. He's loyal to his friend Skeleton and to his neighbor, the troll. He's tireless in tracking the thieves. Though others revile him and call him ugly names, he persists.

Violence & Scariness

The villagers chase Goblin with a pitchfork. The thieves brandish a sword and large mallet. One picture shows a female captive in skirt and low-cut blouse who's restrained by chains around her waist.

Language

Name-calling: The villagers and elves call Goblin "[a] filthy goblin" and "[a] disgusting little goblin."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nobody Likes a Goblin is a medieval fantasy by author/illustrator Ben Hatke, best known for graphic novels that skew young (Zita the Spacegirl series), so it's not surprising that this picture book fantasy world is richly drawn and described. Though Goblin's reviled by both humans and elves, he's pictured as a cute, likable character who displays admirable qualities -- loyalty, courage, and perseverance -- as he treks off to save his friend Skeleton. There's some name-calling ("filthy goblin," "disgusting little goblin"), sword-wielding thieves, a skeleton, ghosts, and a chase with a pitchfork. There's one image of a captured woman on a cart (part of the adventurers' spoils) restrained by chains around her waist, though she's later shown victorious, chasing her captors.

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What's the story?

In NOBODY LIKES A GOBLIN, Goblin starts his day by lighting torches, feeding rats, and gnawing on an old boot for breakfast. When he goes to visit his best friend, Skeleton, in the Treasure Room, a marauding band of "adventurers" storm the dungeon to plunder the treasure. Goblin isn't naturally courageous -- he hides quaking under his bed until the intruders leave -- but when he discovers that they took Skeleton as well, he puts on Skeleton's crown and sets off to find him. His journey takes him past his troll neighbor, whom he vows to help, and he's chased by a farmer with a pitchfork and an inn full of elves, who call him "a filthy goblin" and "a disgusting little goblin." With the help of a cave full of other goblins who see his crown and assume he's their king, Goblin saves Skeleton and others and chases off those who would harm them.

Is it any good?

With beautifully detailed fairy tale art and a lowly but lovable goblin as hero, this picture book takes the reader on a captivating adventure that celebrates friendship and pluck. The fantasy world is unusual for a picture book, Goblin is cute and appealing, and the book celebrates and rewards his admirable character traits. The story's also laced with light humor. When the cave of goblins see his crown and ask Goblin if he's Goblin King, "Goblin thought a moment. 'Yes,' he said. 'Yes, I am.'"

Some elements might be scary or jarring for younger readers: a skeleton, fierce chases, and some ugly name-calling. A buxom female captive in a low-cut blouse and skirt is shown chained on a cart carrying the adventurers' spoils, but later she chases her captors. The book serves as a rich and friendly introduction to fantasy, transporting young readers to an imagined world and to the sort of story they'll devour when they're older.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about name-calling. Why do the farmer and elves call Goblin "filthy" and "disgusting"? Do you think he is? Why do you think they don't like him?

  • What does Goblin do in the story that shows good qualities such as courage, loyalty, and perseverance?

  • In this story, goblins, elves, trolls, skeletons, ghosts, and dragons live alongside people. How many can you find in the art?

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