Review: The Boy Who Made Monsters

Written by Jenny Pearson
Illustrated by Katie Kear
Published by Usborne

I’m such a huge fan of Jenny Pearson’s heartfelt, humorous stories that have all found a place in my heart:  stories that bring both laughter and tears, written with such tenderness, warmth and hope.  The Boy Who Made Monsters is another absolute belter!   A beautifully poignant, humorous and hopeful story of family, friendships and the courage and strength it takes to face monsters. 

Benji McLaughlin and his older brother, Stanley have been sent to live with their Uncle Hamish on the edge of Loch Lochy in Scotland where he runs a holiday cabin lettings business.  Their parents have been missing-at-sea for over five months and, whilst everyone else believes them to be dead, Benji lives with the hope that they are still alive, and that they will be reunited as a family again.  

He instantly feels the magic of Loch Lochy, the place where his father grew up, and wonders if it could become a home whilst he waits for the return of his parents.  His brother Stanley is much more reluctant to give this new life a chance, especially when he discovers that his uncle is having money problems and is in danger of losing his home and business. 

Being a visionary and a believer in the impossible, Benji is determined to come up a plan to make enough money for his uncle so that he can pay off the debt he owes to the monstrous Gregor McGavin.  And what a plan he devises – all thanks to spotting a monster in the Loch.  What better way to draw in tourists than to prove that Loch Ness isn’t the only Scottish Loch with its very own monster!  The only problem is that the Loch Lochy monster is rather camera-shy …

Luckily for Benji, he has his new friends Murdy McGurdy (what a fantastic name for a brilliant young girl!) and Mr Dog, to help him fulfil his mission.  Can they prove that there is a monster in the lake, no matter what it takes?  Cue action, hilarity and mishaps aplenty as these daring friends attempt to pull off the impossible whilst dealing with mean girls, runaway carts and water dunkings. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but suffice to say that tears of laughter are guaranteed alongside moments of fear and realisation that made my heart ache for both brothers – and Murdy.

Benji is just the most wonderful young boy:  curious, funny, chatty and an eternal optimist.  He is empathetic towards others and is a loving and kind-hearted brother, nephew and friend:  someone who is there for others when they need him.  Whilst his brother has accepted the loss of their parents and is struggling with the pain of grief and with feelings of guilt, Benji is in denial.  He is not prepared to accept that he will never see his parents again and hides his pain and grief deep inside where it sometimes escapes as feelings of sadness that overwhelm him.  His journey to truth, acceptance and the start of healing – with the help of family, friends and professionals – is honestly and sensitively portrayed. Children are shown that grief affects people in different ways and that it takes time, help from others, and taking a first step to allow healing to begin.  This is a story that will speak to anyone who has lost someone they love, and encourage empathy in others.

I just have to mention Uncle Hamish who I absolutely adored. He is dealing with his own grief at the loss of his brother and is surrounded by memories of growing up with his brother in their family home, a connection that Benji also feels keenly. I can’t imagine how frightening and heart-breaking it must be for him to be in danger of losing that home. Despite his own worries, he is determined to make a home for his nephews and make them feel welcomed. He so obviously wants the best for the boys, and treats them with such kindness – even if they do sometimes take advantage of this! There is something else he does that makes me teary just thinking about it!

The Boy Who Made Monsters is a beautifully told story of family and friendship, of truth and acceptance, of love and hope.  It’s a story that utterly captivated me, and left me smiling through my tears with that fuzzy, warm feeling that makes this such a special read, and one I cannot recommend highly enough for readers of 9+.

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne for providing me with a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.  I’m looking forward to buying the final copy to see the illustrations which I have no doubt will be gorgeous.

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