The Monster who wasn't by T.C. Shelley
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781526600837.
(Age: 10-12). Highly Recommended. Themes: Monsters - fiction, Mythical creatures, Gargoyles, Families. This novel tells the story of a strange Imp boy born into the Monster world from the sigh of a dying man and the laugh of a baby. This unique combination creates an unusual creature who is eagerly awaited by the Ogre king Thunderguts. As soon as he is born the strange Imp is frightened by the underworld he sees, and he escapes to join a gang of lovable Gargoyles who take him into the world of humans to their home on top of a cathedral. His first few days of life are coloured by the feelings of wonder as he learns about his surroundings and the creatures he has come to know as his pack. A kind angel is his protector and helps him learn more about the world of monsters and humans.
The monsters are richly imagined and described in delightful detail by the author striking a perfect balance between scary and grotesque. Their actions towards humans are all controlled by a powerful sword that keeps them from harming humans in their realm. Thunderguts continues to look for the Imp so Daniel, his guardian angel, takes him to the home of a family to hide out. He is soon discovered by the children at a wake and they take him in as one of their own making him very happy to be part of a real family. But the human and monster worlds cross over when the family's baby Beatrice is kidnapped by pixies. The Imp, now called Samuel, must go back to the underground land of the monsters to rescue her and face the destiny the Ogre king has in store for him.
This adventure is fast-paced and full of action which will keep readers riveted to the book for the duration. Readers will identify with the main character of the Imp as he constantly tries to do the right thing without really knowing what he is doing.
The detail in the monster sequences in this novel are remarkable and could be quite frightening for younger readers. The themes of identity and belonging are powerful and the plot twists and turns to surprise readers and keep them guessing right to the end. A great first novel for T.C. Shelley, a Western Australian author. Teacher's notes are available.