One of the best things about being an author is that you get to sit around drinking tea and reading lots of books and can pretend it’s all research.
Recently, I read Maggot Moon by the brilliant Sally Gardner and was blown away by it. So blown away was I, in fact, that when I found myself circling for several hours in an aeroplane, unable to land due to fog, I sat and read the whole book again.
Incredibly, it was even better the second time.
Written in first person, Maggot Moon tells the story of Standish Tredwell, a dyslexic boy living in an oppressive, Nazi-like state referred to only as “The Motherland”. It is a society where families disappear, armed men patrol the streets, and citizens live in a constant state of terror.
That sense of terror permeates every page, and not since Orwell’s 1984 have I felt so uneasy watching a story unfold. Standish’s narration may be simple, but it’s all the more powerful for it. He’s an easy character to care about, and the other characters – from the snivelling teacher to the wily grandfather – are equally well drawn.
At times Maggot Moon is a bleak book, but there are also moments that will make you want to loudly cheer “Yes!” – even if you are on a crowded plane circling over the Orkney islands. Taut, gripping, and with a vein of coal-black humour, Maggot Moon is a book that’ll stay with you for a long time to come.
“For there in the corner, enjoying a feast,
Was the horribly slobbery Jumblebum Beast!”
My first introduction to Chae’s writing was through The Loon on the Moon which my then two-year-old daughter absolutely loved. We recently read Ping! which we also enjoyed, and although we haven’t yet read The Fabulous Flapdoodles, it’d have to go some to live up to Jumblebum.
This story of what happens when you don’t clean your bedroom is – and I don’t use this lightly – Seuss-like in its execution. Not a word of the rhyming text is wasted, and the images it conjures up would be vivid enough even without Ben Cort’s brilliant illustrations to back them up.
It’s an action-packed little tale with a good few laugh-out-loud moments, and the rhythm of the words make them a joy to read aloud. Boys in particular will love this book (although my daughter demanded I immediately read it again after we finished it), and if there’s any justice this will be the book that catapults Mssr Strathie into the big leagues.
Both these books are available right now, so do yourself a favour and go snap ‘em up. After you’ve bought The Book of Doom, of course…