Book Review: Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow
Welcome to Ratbridge. But beware — for there is skulduggery afoot. Young Arthur has fallen foul of the appalling outlaw, Snatcher, and is trapped alone in the town with every way home sealed. Meanwhile Snatcher and his men are working tirelessly in secret on a fiendish and dastardly plan to take over — and destroy — the entire town. With the help of Willbury Nibble, QC; some friendly boxtrolls and cabbageheads; Marjorie the frustrated inventor; and the rats and pirates from the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, can Arthur thwart Snatcher’s evil plans — and find his way home?
Proudly presenting Q&A with the kiddo, courtesy of my 10-year-old son, in which I ask my kiddo to describe a book he’s enjoyed recently and he gives his opinions, more or less unfiltered by mom.
Without further ado:
Q: What book do you want to talk about?
A: Here Be Monsters!
Q: What was it about?
A: [Mom’s note: This is apparently a dumb question, answered only by an eye-roll.]
Q: Who are the main characters?
A: Arthur, Willbury, Fish, Egg, Titus, Tom, Kipper, Grandfather, and Herbert. Arthur is this kid that lives underground and has to come up to steal food every night for him and his grandfather. At the beginning, Arthur comes out of his tunnel to steal food but he gets caught by Snatcher. Willbury helps Arthur.
Q: Wait, who’s Snatcher?
A: Snatcher is an evil guy who wants to take over Ratbridge and then the world
Q: Okay, so what’s Ratbridge?
A: It’s the city where the story takes place. It’s a normal town but with lots of fashion and inventions and evil people and monsters.
Q: What kind of monsters are there?
A: Boxtrolls (trolls that are in boxes) that fix stuff. There are cabbageheads — who have cabbages on their heads. There are trotting badgers that are really vicious. Fresh-water seacows. Also, rabbit women who are really human women who live in rabbit tunnels and knit a lot. There are running cheeses who live in the woods who look like giant marshmallows with legs. There’s also a giant rat.
Q: What else can you tell me about the book?
A: This is an adventure and action story. I liked the whole thing. It was suspenseful and there were tons of cliffhangers. The pictures of the monsters and Ratbridge were really cool.
Q: Who do you think would like the book?
A: I recommend the book for anybody who likes monsters, funny stuff, action, and adventure.
Q: Final words of advice?
A: It is really funny. Good for all ages.
Mom’s two cents: Here Be Monsters! was another successful read-aloud. The kiddo and I both found it funny and hard to put down. I’d say that it was perhaps a tad confusing at the beginning, as the story just jumps right in with a kid with mechanical wings, a bizarrely run-down town with mean townsfolk, and a group of mysterious men on pretend horses hunting wild cheeses in the woods. Before long, though, we were hooked. The story is a bit weird and verges on steampunk in some ways, with a strong focus on scientific inventions and contraptions. In the world of Here Be Monsters!, some of the biggest “monsters” are people (such as the evil members of the Cheese Guild), and talking rats — who are also pirates — who also run a “nautical laundry” — can be heroes. This books is illustrated throughout with amazingly detailed — and often very funny — black-and-white drawings, which add to the fun and were definitely a big draw for my kiddo. All in all, we both give Here Be Monsters! a big thunbs up and recommend it for kids and parents alike. A sense of humor is required, and a willingness to believe in trolls who wear cardboard boxes definitely helps.
Final word of note: Right when we got to the 75% finished mark, I happened to read that a movie version of this book — working title The Boxtrolls — is being planned. From what I’ve read, the movie makes some key alterations to the plot, but I hope the film will retain the book’s quirky humor and smarts. It’ll be interesting to see how this complicated adventure translates to the big screen. You can read more about the movie here.
So there you have it. We’ll be back with more book opinions from my kiddo, whenever I can get him to talk books again.