Stop! The monsters in this book stink, eat children, suck out brains, growl and tell unfunny jokes. You’ve been warned. That sticker on the cover should be enough to tease any spirited child into diving into this debut-making book by rocker Ahmet Zappa. Yes, he is the son of legendary rock musician Frank Zappa.
Actually, the sticker is a truthful declaration of what you get inside Monstrous Memoirs. Zappa’s monsters do everything the cover declares, or at least try to, till such time as they are ‘monsterminated’ by a member of the McFearless family.
The family trade is not the only thing that’s unusual about the monster clan. For starters, the father is the world’s only trained monster fighter. The kids can fight monsters too, only their dad doesn’t know that, since they secretly taught themselves. Eleven-year-old Minerva can do a backward cartwheel, and can also read, write and speak Monstrosity, the secret language of monsters. Kid brother Max is a crack shot with a slingshot, when he’s not busy picking his nose. And great-grandfather Maximilius appears to be either a living painting or a talking coyote, with a patch over one eye and a huge red diamond that doubles up as a monster detector.
Mini and Max have a series of incredible adventures as they fight the gross minions of the vile king of monsters, Zarmaglorg, who has kidnapped their father and imprisoned him in Castle Doominstinkinfart. There are plenty of primary school favourite words such as “poo”, “puke” and “potty”. Satisfaction guaranteed for fans of the Goosebumps and Captain Underpants series.
The family has a very engaging supporting cast. There’s the talking coyote, who insists on being called Mr Devilstone, as well as hundreds of incredibly powerful and incredibly gross monster-fighting recipes contained in Ms Monstranomicon, an apostate monster turned into a talking and biting book. And the monsters, of course. There’s the Grumplemeiser, which loves to eat, and the Swoggler, which feasts on memories.
It all sounds a lot like Harry Potter. But the similarities end with monsters and talking books. The writing is more loose and the plot, wafer-thin, but the dialogue is zingier than Potter.
The other big plus is that Zappa appears not to have heard the term “politically correct”. This may not get him into too many school libraries, but it does make him a riotously funny read.