MG Takes on Thursday

This is my new weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written Pádraig Kenny
Illustrated by Edward Bettison
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Uncle Enoch had described this to her as: ‘The place where we are created, where we sleep before birth. A place we have no memory of, but which haunts our dreams.’

This book in three words:

MONSTERS, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

I posted my first ever review on my Blog on 11th April 2019, and it was for Pog by Pádraig Kenny (review here) which I absolutely loved, so I was very keen to pick up and read The Monsters of Rookhaven and am only sorry that I waited nearly five months to read it!

This book is, quite simply, an incredible read which captured me from the opening line (Mirabelle was in the garden feeding bones to the flowers ….) and transported me into a world filled with gothic delight, marvel and monsters. Mirabelle and her monster family are separated from the human world by a glamour which becomes torn, allowing two orphaned children, Jem and Tom, to discover their existence. Jem and Tom are escaping their own monsters having lost both their father and mother and run away from an abusive Uncle.

The monster Family are brilliantly realised: a diverse group who are born from the Ether (a concept which I found utterly fascinating and led me to some of my own reading) and live together as a family, looking out for each other, protecting each other and allowing each other the room to explore and grow. The Twins can walk through walls, Uncle Bertram and Uncle Enoch can shapeshift, Odd can travel through portals, and Aunt Eliza – that’s just plain creepy! Mirabelle doesn’t seem to have any special ability, except that she doesn’t need to eat or sleep. And then there is Piglet who I found to be one of the most fascinating characters I have ever encountered in middle-grade, an entity that engenders both fear, respect and love in others, someone who needs to be locked away, but who opens others to their own feelings and truths and in so doing experiences for himself the depth of emotions from anger to grief to love. I also adored Uncle Bertram who, despite his monstrosity, is engendered with such innocence that my heart ached for him.

I really enjoyed the friendship between Mirabelle and Jem as they learn to open up to each other, trust and offer strength and support when needed. There are secrets, twists and revelations in this story that kept me enthralled, but I don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers.

I found the whole aspect of time and place fascinating: the images and mention of spheres, the portals Odd uses to travel to other times and places, Piglet’s plane of existence, and a twist in the story. The story is set shortly after the end of the Second World War which has encroached on the lives of the villagers who have lost family members and had injured members return. One of those suffering is Freddie who has lost his brother in the War and, whilst dealing with his own grief, he also feels the pain of his father withdrawing from him as he fights his own battle with grief. This provides a perfect storm for an evil that is hunting the Monsters of Rookhaven to seek its own path to them …

This story certainly questions who, and what, the real monsters are, and how humans can have their fears and uncertainty manipulated and turned into hatred through malicious intent. One of the central themes in this story is the pain caused by grief and loss of loved ones and how the sharing of grief can bring people closer, and help to heal.

The illustrations by Edward Bettison are stunning and cover both partial and full page spreads. Some of the drawings are rather chilling, and perfectly complement the darker elements of the story, whilst others depict wonderful images of the mansion and village.

I would highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys high-quality, emotive, thought-provoking fantasy. I was so pleased to learn that there is going to be a sequel to this story later this year. I will definitely be getting it – and reading it – as soon as it is published.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

8 thoughts on “MG Takes on Thursday

  1. I know we talked about this yesterday, but it was good to read a bit more about it today, it certainly sounds thought-provoking and imaginative! I’m still in two minds as so much appeals but I still have lingering doubts based on Tin so I await your thoughts after that!

    Liked by 1 person

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