[Reviewed from Copy Courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books]
From the extraordinary artist and storyteller Benji Davies comes a divinely illustrated and expertly plotted picture book that is thrilling and fun. Told in a lyrical and haunting tone, the first read through is spooky and mysterious and holds readers in complete suspense as they wonder what on earth is the Grotlyn? Where is it going? And what is it going to do next?
The ending has a light-hearted and mischievous flair to it that leaves its audience giggling, relieved, and wanting to read it again and again. Once you know what the Grotlyn is and why it has been, “Slipping through your house unseen,” the tone of the book completely changes. Each subsequent reading puts the audience in the know and expertly changes the haunting tone into an exciting secret that they know the answer to! The first and second readings are entirely different experiences and both are brilliant. Clues that were missed on the first reading of The Grotlyn are suddenly clear and thrilling as little ones shout out their discoveries.
This is an enchanting story that masterfully assures grown ups and children alike not to, “Be scared to sleep – to dream! For things are not quite what they seem.”
But before you read it the first time, make sure the dust jacket is firmly in place (and no peeking!) or the secret of who the Grotlyn is will be revealed all too soon.
You’ll begin this tale on a street and see a little girl, Rubi, looking down from her window onto an organ grinder and his monkey; a young boy, Sam, eating a sandwich on a roof; and a police officer, Policeman Vickers, around a corner. The setting has a nostalgic charm to it where you could easily find one of Dickens’ or Dahl’s characters strolling along. The magical and eerie illustrations set the tone for suspense and the beguiling lyrics beckon us into the story.
We follow along as Rubi heads to bed with the organ grinder’s tune stuck in her head. As she’s trying to fall asleep something scuttles through her room. She tries to comfort herself by being logical and reasonable and assures herself that it is nothing dangerous, most likely just a mouse. (Most likely.)
But then she hears it go up the chimney.
Next we se Sam, a young boy sitting by a large sign that he has just painted, eating a sandwich. Something scuttles by him, too, but he assures himself that it was probably just a cat. (Probably.)
Others then begin chiming in about their experience encountering something mysterious and terrifying. Certainly it was the Grotlyn! What else could it be?
Across town, a policeman is hanging out his laundry when the Grotlyn arrives! But he is not fast enough for the Grotlyn and it escapes!
We don’t know anything about the Grotlyn other than the things it takes: cheese, a book, biscuits, twine, hankies, rope, tools, lamp, spools, a basket, and a wheel.
The discovery of what this mysterious creature is delights and surprises as much as it reminds us that we often imagine things to be much scarier than they really are. Usually there is a very reasonable explanation. (Usually.)
Reading The Grotlyn to my boys is fantastic. On the first reading, my youngest one was so unsure of this book. He snuggled up close, then hid behind me, then moved to the other side of the couch, then came back, then hid under a pillow, and finally cautiously peeked out from under a blanket. I offered to stop reading it to him several times, (I certainly don’t want to force him to read something too scary) but he insisted that I continue. This child who always interrupts to ask questions didn’t make a sound. Not one peep! He was so relieved and thrilled at the end that he applauded! Then once he knew the ending begged me to read it again. Each subsequent reading finds him brave and excited and full of his usual questions. It is thrilling and empowering for him to enjoy a book that he initially thought was very, very scary.
My seven-year-old son was sure that I wouldn’t read anything to him that was actually scary. He was a little nervous though (just a little) and sat just a little closer (only a little) as I read through it. He loved the ending though and thought that the whole book was, “Like a roller coaster ride.”
The Grotlyn offers up delicious irony, perfectly paced suspense, bewitching illustrations, satisfying couplets, and a poetic rhythm to it that makes it an effortlessly enjoyable read for adults and children alike.
Recommended Ages 4 to 7. HarperCollins Children’s Books. September 2017. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0008212759 Fiction.
Where to Get it:
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
FTC Disclosures: Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit. It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”