Tashi : The book of magnificent monsters by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg

cover image

Illus. by Kim Gamble. Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760525217. 248pp.
(Ages: 6 - 9) Recommended. This collection of Tashi stories links together eight fantastic tales about monsters. Among them are Baba Yaga, Demons and a Chimera (part lion, part goat and part serpent). All the stories have the common element of a boy called Jack and his parents, who live in the modern day world. Jack's friend Tashi is otherworldly and has many exotic tales to tell and this he does to entertain Jack and his parents. Tashi is always able to outwit the monsters and associated nasty characters, such as the War Lord or River Pirate. Tashi tames his own fears of spiders and snakes with the power of his mind and he saves Princess Hoiti-Toiti from marrying the evil Khan. The setting is a global blend of Asia, Persia and Russia which is laid out in a map of Tashi's village at the beginning of the book.
The many wonderful pencil illustrations by Kim Gamble are really suited to the text and make the monsters a lot less frightening. Jack's parents also help soften the scariness with their inane childish comments, juxtaposed with Tashi's smartness and bravery. Some of the characters have somewhat humorous names such as Ah Chu or Soh Meen and if you can ignore this silly cultural stereotyping there is some enjoyable reading for children about 6 to 9 years. They are quite popular as a novel for newly independent readers or as a read aloud. Some of the stories have been around since the 1990's but are really quite timeless and it is no wonder they are still being published. Three similar Tashi collections have also just been released.
Jo Marshall