Tree Goblins by David Melling

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Tree Goblins by David Melling

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Two more of Melling's inept goblins go to rescue their babies in yet another must-buy little gem. Absurd and absurdly enjoyable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340930496

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Here's a rum do. Butterfingers, the daft and weary tree goblin, used to crawling round his favourite horse-chestnut tree with the weight of the world on his shoulders, has only gone and stood up – again! – and dropped everything to the ground. Not literally the world, of course – but instead his nest, his wife Mildew, and their three egg-let babies, who had only just that moment started puking, bawling and calling each other names, have all gone researching gravity.

Not only that, the three babies, ensconced in shells that make them look like tiny conkers in their husks, get immediately snatched and taken to the other side of the wood by an owl, who soon lives to regret it. This book then is the parallel saga of their continued journey, and that of the parents, their tree and another goblin who lives in a damp sock, on their combined rescue mission.

So here's another rum do. A childless middle-aged bloke reading and reporting back on this book, not because the reviewing gods asked, but because he knew it would be fun. The books are simply the lightest of entertainment, but clearly have an immense amount of craft put to them.

For the more expected audience, of the 6-9 year olds, there is absolutely nothing to fault. The stories mix perfectly, in the snappiest of chapters, and the writing is eminently clear and fun. The characters and creatures are just as daft as any other entry to this series, which has relied on the silly more than most – and most pleasingly got away with it.

It struck me again however that there is just as much skill, if not more, in the illustrations, also by David Melling. There's so much attention to the finer points of the pencil drawings – there's no need for the bulbous black fruity thing dangling from Mildew's forehead, but it's there, and you might enjoy the whole volume and not notice it. Chances are you'll come across it on one of this book's multiple readings.

Elsewhere there's a delight to be had in the authority of the writing, even when concerning such daft and hapless critters as the blind Ground-bat. It struck me that I'd only seen such written earnestness regarding the daft, and such brilliant pictorial attention to detailing the cutely silly, in one series before – that of the Flanimals, by Ricky Gervais. And as that franchise seems to have come to an end with Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling by Ricky Gervais we can only be grateful this one has come along to sit alongside it.

So please don't disparage the idea of someone in their 30s getting a kick out of Melling's goblins. If you buy it for your littl'uns – and buy it you should – I dare you not to smirk copiously when you turn to it yourself. It's a guilt-free little joy for all the ages. And I rather think you'll need to buy the others, too – they're all perfectly self-contained, but completing the set on this occasion is a must.

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Jill said:

If you are middle-aged, what does that make me?!

Sue said:

Or me?

John replied:

We are all middle aged, but some are more middle aged than others.