Gargantis by Thomas Taylor
The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea series. Walker Books, 2020. ISBN:
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Herbie Lemon is a Lost and Founder in the Grand Nautilus Hotel, where the overbearing manager is called Mr Mollusc and the owner is called Lady Kraken. The weather in the town of Eerie-on-Sea is going quite pear shaped as a mysterious man, who Herbie dubs Deep Hood, books into the hotel. Herbie enlists his friend Violet Parma to investigate a clockwork hermit crab and a mysterious bottle with undeciphered writing on it, washed up along with local beachcomber Mrs Fossil. All the fisherfolk and Deep Hood are intent on getting their hands on the bottle and some are willing to use violent means to get it from Herbie and Violet. A strange light called a Sprightening is released from the bottle and the children learn that a sea monster called Gargantis is responsible for creating havoc. In fact old rhymes have forewarned them of these events. Herbie is terrified of the sea but needs to help restore order along with Violet. They venture out into treacherous waters on a boat called the Jornty Spark and face the their enemies and the Vortiss.
A lot of scary things happen in this fantastic tale but the humour and over the top characters and events, stop it from ever being too menacing. Since the story is told in the first person, from Herbie's point of view, we also get his funny observations and experience the perilous moments. Violet and Herbie make terrific protagonists, Violet is brave and a risk taker while Herbie is more thoughtful and cautious. Thomas Taylor successfully conjures up an original adventure with a touch of whimsy which would work well as a read aloud. Taylor's illustrations and maps are great additions to the book. This is the second in The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea series, however you don't need to have read Malamander in order to understand the story. A book club guide and a storytelling challenge are available.