Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell. July 2013. 9781603090759. Gr. 5-8
This book has been on my “to read” list for a long time. I mentioned it briefly in our presentation at the MEMO Conference this fall for the fabulous reviews it had gotten. Publisher’s Weekly compared it to the Shrek films. Kirkus called it “a charmer.” And Booklist said “young readers will be delighted.” But I wasn’t able to get a copy of it until just recently, and I am happy to report that it lived up to the hype.
The story takes us to an alternate version of the 1860′s England in which monsters are a regular part of life. Every village has a monster and the attacks are really more like shows that they put on for the tourists. It’s good for the economy, really. Only there’s one town whose monster hasn’t attacked in years, and that is a problem. No monster attacks = no tourist money. Plus it’s kind of bad for town spirit when you don’t have a scary mascot of a monster to brag about. It must be fixed.
Dr. Charles Wilkie, a bit of a crackpot inventor, is charged with the task of seeing what’s wrong with the town monster and getting him to attack again in exchange for getting his medical licensee reinstated. What he finds when he reaches the monster’s lair is a depressed monster named Rayburn, who has lost his confidence for the monstering life. That’s where the adventure begins. Rayburn, Wilkie, and a street urchin who tags along set off on a journey to restore Rayburn’s confidence.
Of course, that leads to unexpected results, and Rayburn learns how important monsters really are in the grand scheme of this alternate historical world.
I loved the humorous anachronisms and the witty references throughout. It reminded me a bit of Giants Beware for a slightly older audience. Recommended for graphic novel fans in upper elementary or middle school.