Monstrous Maud: Scary Show by A B Saddlewick

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Monstrous Maud: Scary Show by A B Saddlewick

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The ultimate entry to this series, as the school talent show causes a major problem for our Maud.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books
ISBN: 9781780551739

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If you have a series of books set in a school, all to feature a different aspect of school life, you are duty bound it seems to feature a talent contest for the pupils. This series is no different, although of course the school is. It's where Maud goes, and she's the only human. So her fellow pupils can do formation vampire bat flying, or a wicked spell casting, and even the invisible girl will join in, showing off her gymnastics. What hope the poor human girl Maud, who has pretended to be an evil nasty 'Tutu' all year just to try and fit in?

This might not be the last ever Monstrous Maud book, but it certainly should be, for now at least. As it has such a sense of finality to it, and certainly as it's the best example of its kind I've read, I'll settle for the description 'ultimate'. I won't give everything away, of course, but this is definitely not one of those sit-com styled dramas where at the end credits nothing has changed, allowing the next episode to open in exactly the same place as all the others.

Along the way we have what has quickly become the pattern for the series at its best, setting up what will be a problem for Maud purely because she's human, and spinning this out until the resolution in a very intelligent, clever and amusing way. Here it's down to chance that Maud finds possible solutions to her lack of monstrous talent, but the fact that none of them are satisfactory – yet are always suitably enjoyable for us to read about – means we're not sure until the last chapters where the plot is going to take us. It takes us past some good jokes, the sight of Maud fitting in perfectly with her freakish monster friends (here she uses a disembodied head to chase some ramblers from the school grounds) and having to balance things against what is the one true horror in her life – her sister.

The British covers for this series are a little unsatisfactory in the end – the garish colours and twee cartoon suited to the target audience only disguise the craft within. I'm not saying they're unsuitable for the under-ten girl, these books are never too dark or humourless whatsoever. But this certainly contains a highly appreciable mix of the everyday and the unusual. I'd justify its high Bookbag star rating by saying that it's what fans of the series will want to give it, and mention that those newcomers amongst you really ought to start with Big Fright. The series hasn't been an all-out artistic success, but with the finish this seems to provide to the first batch of six releases, I would suggest that instead of being yellow and coming last, it should be gold for coming first.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Dork Diaries: Pop Star by Rachel Renee Russell is a series entry that got to the talent show more quickly. A slightly older, more masculine audience will find their equivalent in the popularity contest featured in The Slither Sisters: Tales from Lovecraft Middle School by Charles Gilman.

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