Monstrous Maud:Big Fright by A B Saddlewick

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Monstrous Maud:Big Fright by A B Saddlewick

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Not just a gaudy franchise, but a worthwhile debut for a new series of the spooky and comically horrible for the very young.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books
ISBN: 9781780550725

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Meet Monstrous Maud. Fed up with her pink and perfect sister, and the boring, do-goody types she suffers at school, she is not too disappointed when she – and her pet rat – are expelled, and forced to attend a very different institution. Rotwood School is a veritable hell-hole for anyone else, with maggoty food, and all the stereotypes of horror fiction as the pupils. Maud – being so monstrous – fits in perfectly – or at least she would if she is allowed to stay…

As horror adventures for the young reader get to have less and less horror and more and more youth (examples including ParaNorman by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and Raven Mysteries: Vampires and Volts by Marcus Sedgwick and its kin), it's a relief to report that the books don't completely suffer as a result. This is definitely the launch episode in a series, and the copyright and franchise ownership are definitely belonging to a limited company and not the author, but this succeeds in doing exactly what it wants to do.

Not only is the plot more than a decent little warmer for this series of short, quick reads, it has a lot more thought put into it, and the simple but effective approach of turning everything on its head to make Maud the outcast who still has to try and fit in, even given the change of school, is embellished by amusing detail, and a couple of very good moments. Characters from the unusual vampire to the kid with the disembodied head are introduced nicely, and there is clearly enough mileage in Maud's home life and how she rebels against it to provide for further books. While those seem to focus on one aspect of young life, with titles suggesting sports days and sleep-overs, and presumably could be read in any order, this launch volume is a success. It might not have been edited perfectly (what uniform is that, then, on page 89?) and the illustrations are on the random side, but the story is a fine place to start a promising franchise of intriguing little reads, for all those little monsters you know and love.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Archie's Unbelievably Freaky Week by Andrew Norriss is bound to appeal to the same audience, and is nigh-on genius.

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