Stone Goblins by David Melling

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Stone Goblins by David Melling

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A bunch of idiotic goblins get stoned, and face great peril in a wacky and brilliantly-illustrated young reader.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340930489

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If I were a stone goblin, it appears, I would be very stupid indeed. I would spend my days underground, eating toe-cheese, being completely unaware of my ridiculous name (Saggypant, Snilgob), and not getting out in the fresh air much – if at all. Once up on the surface, perhaps walking near the Lumpy Lake my tribe have wittily decided to live underneath, I would perhaps collect rocks and store them for no reason in the Stone Room. If I were of high society I might have a fashionable top-knot plaited into my stomach hair, and possibly some shoes or slippers that don’t match. But that’s about it.

The stone goblin creations in this book are such pleasantly horrid creatures it hardly matters what the plot’s like, and the excellent pencil drawings of the bulbous-nosed planks (or plonks) are going to be high up in what appeals to the young reader just starting to choose her or his own reading. I will let you know that the esteemed Cartey is called upon, with her tools and her embonpoint, to rescue some particularly stupid goblins from under a rather large stone; meanwhile something with very eggy breath is threatening the very existence of the goblin society featured.

The story is wacky enough to go anywhere, and does, and take whatever side-loops and excursions it needs to get there – and, again, it does. I felt a little more cleverness could have been used in constructing the story but the audience will not notice any short-comings and minor imbalances such as exist.

What they will be much more interested in is the very character of the goblins, which does come through superbly, and not just through the illustrations. The bickering children, the not-any-brighter workers, even Chief Cheesyfeet on his sedan, er, stone – all are here and dragged unwittingly into the saga. They’re bound to be stupid, certain to get clunked about the head, and even more likely to get smothered in goo and gunk by the end of the book, and all the same we have to laugh, however we might dislike encouraging our offspring to break wind and pick their noses by giving them books where the heroes do just that – and often.

The unnecessary epilogue – unnecessary in that I was not expecting something so quickly effecting – was a very nice bonus touch, too, that the adult reader will remember as well as the youngster. But the book will forever hold a lot of appeal from the pictures, the story, and all the extras – from the encyclopaedia-style prologue defining stone goblins to the sketches and more at the end.

These were also used to plug the other goblin books in the series, and I wish for once publishers would have the confidence to let such good and fun books speak for themselves rather than finish with an advert as here. It’s knock-about, it’s wacky, it has inventive typefaces (well, I liked that touch, anyway) – I am sure it will be a big success, as will the rest of the quartet that this is a part of. The others have a publishing schedule peppering the next few months, and although they only take the adult half an hour to read I would expect on the evidence of this to enjoy them all – a lot more than being a stone goblin, anyway.

Tiny fragments lost then for a build-up to the story that is a wee bit wobbly, and the feeling a lot of the extras and fore-pages will be eagerly recycled for the other books in the series, but this book is still a great purchase and thoroughly recommended by the Bookbag.

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