Author: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Read: May 2016
Where It Came From: Print ARC received via Goodreads Giveaways
Rating: 4.5 Honk-Honks
I was so happy to receive a review copy of this picture book through a Goodreads Giveaway. I’ve never read anything else by Ben Hatke (though his Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels have always looked intriguing), but the cover art and the blurb were delightful. And now that I’ve read the book, I can confirm that it is delightful as well!
In the story, cute little Goblin is minding his own business, living in his dungeon and hanging out with his friend Skeleton, when a band of mean, nasty adventurers invades and takes everything—even Skeleton! So Goblin bravely goes out into the world to rescue his friend, though he has been warned to be careful, because nobody likes a goblin. The reversal of the typical order of things in a fantasy story here is fun, with Goblin and other monsters as the heroes, and the adventurers and townsfolk as the thoughtless, greedy villains. I love the humor in both the words and the pictures, and the illustrations add richness and depth to the story, with plenty of interesting things to notice and talk about that never come up in the text. Like the woman who is on the adventurers’ cart full of looted treasure!! What happened there?!
My favorite part, though, had to be Honk-Honk. As Goblin starts off on his adventure, he asks a neighboring hill troll if he saw which way the adventurers took Skeleton, and as she points him in the right direction, she mentions that they took her Honk-Honk away with them (which of course, sweet Goblin that he his, he promises to bring back). At the time there is no other context, and I was like, “...what’s a Honk-Honk?” But later, when Goblin finds the adventurers and their cart of spoils, when you look at the illustration, there is a goose in a cage amongst the riches (and next to the random captive woman)! Honk-Honk!!! Honk-Honk plays his (or her) part in chasing off the baddies and is eventually returned to the hill troll, and they join Goblin and their other new friends for a meal at home in the dungeon at the very end of the book. Cute, funny little details like that make this story a pleasure from start to finish.
Dungeons and Dragons, RPG-loving parents (or even just parents who are fantasy fans) would probably love to share this with their children. Even grown-ups without children will find much to love in this book and could give it a nice home on their shelf. Older, elementary-age children would understand the humor in the reversal of the good guy/bad guy roles, but younger children could enjoy the story, too (though it’s probably not one I would choose for a 5-and-under storytime program—I think that a grown-up and child would get more out of it by sharing the story as a pair).
*As ever, much as we are grateful for the copy, our review is uninfluenced by its source.