MG Review: Help! I Smell a Monster, Justin Davies

Note: this is a re-run (or updated version) of a post from my previous site/blog, so if it feels a bit déjà vû, it’s not you: it’s me.

  • genre(s): fantasy
  • read it for: hilarious monster hi-jinks, and a lovely warm story of self-discovery and found family

This book STINKS . . . of monsters! A hilariously funny debut, perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and David Solomons.

When Alice is sent to stay with her Uncle Magnus, she soon realises that his job agency isn’t quite … normal. It helps monsters find work that makes the most of their unique talons – er, talents. Alice is shocked to discover that monsters are EVERYWHERE. There’s even a Cyclops working in the castle as a pastry chef! But when he suddenly disappears, Alice smells something fishy. Can she and her uncle sniff out the missing monster before it’s too late?

Source: The book was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley, for review purposes. This review constitutes my honest personal opinions.

I enjoyed this so much and readers of the target age (and up…) will too. The adventures are fast-paced, and have that irreverent madcap humour that particularly appeals at the younger end of the MG bracket (9-11), with some lovely nods to the real world, such as social networks for monsters.

The underlying messages about acceptance and working together are clear without ever being didactic/preachy, and child readers will find it easy to root for Alice and her new-found monster friends. This is a great start to a series, and I am sure it will be a success.

It would make a lovely shared bedtime read – I know I would have enjoyed reading this with my kids when they were younger. Kim Geyer’s illustrations are great too, making it suitable for that kind of ‘bridging book’ that you can read before kids can really handle a book alone, but they feel too old for the picture books you’ve read a million times (at their insistence, obviously!) There’s a perfect balance of danger/ excitement and warmth. It had something of an Eva Ibbotson vibe for me, for a slightly younger audience – probably because of the crazy monsters.

Clearly, I’m recommending this – it’s lots of fun, and would offer plenty as a class book too. Loads of creative possibilities, obviously, but also chances to explore monster lore and mythology.

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What do you think?