Sisters are a wonderful thing… especially when they’re as fast thinking and acting as Sarah is on the day her brother Louis gets eaten not once, not twice, but five times. 

It’s not revealed whether Louis and his sister are aware of the monsters that live in their rural neighbourhood when they set off on a bike ride this particular day, but they haven’t gone far before they encounter a string of unique and ghastly creatures who have quite an appetite – for one another.

So when Louis gets gulped up by a Gulper, it’s only a turn of the page before (“unfortunately”) the Gulper has been grabbed up by a Grabular. And so on and so forth, each monster larger and more voracious than the previous. However, Sarah is in hot pursuit and witnesses each new monster gobbling up the last, and when the Sabre-toothed Yumper finally stops to rest in its lair, she spies her chance to rescue Louis. But can it be done? How has Louis fared in the belly of all those beasts? And what is Sarah’s secret ingredient?

That this tale has a comic book sense of timing is no surprise – author John Fardell is a cartoonist by trade and many pages are broken into comic-strip style frames, offering incremental shifts in perspective. Even Sarah’s excursion into the belly of the beasts has a cross-sectioned comic-strip-within-a-comic-strip feel. By the conclusion, the reader has seen dozens of little pieces of the world that Sarah and Louis (and the all-important beasts) inhabit. So when the final page delivers a bird’s-eye view, you can retrace the journey all the way back to Sarah and Louis’ home.

With its repetitive “unfortunately” device, its unique collection of beasts with their terrifying names and its journey across a fascinating landscape of oceans, atolls and mountainous lairs, this is a delicious
picture book romp that children
will quickly devour

We also love that this story can be turned into a fun little memory game as children try to recall the names and the order in which the various beasts grab, gobble, snatch, guzzle and gulp up poor Louis. The key for parents to remember (so their child thinks they are quite simply a genius) is that there is always a teensy tiny little visual clue – usually in the bottom right-hand corner of the page – as to which of the beasts will be coming next…

See Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, talk about this book in her round-up of great children’s books at London’s 2012 Book Fair (main image above, simply click on the arrow to watch). 

Author Notes John Fardell is a cartoonist, author and illustrator who lives in Edinburgh with his two children. He has been a longstanding contributor to the comic magazine Viz; one of his most popular strips is The Modern Parents. In 2004, his first children’s adventure novel, The Seven Professors of the Far North, was published, followed by The Flight of the Silver Turtle and The Secret of the Black Moon Moth. He has also written and illustrated three picture books: Manfred the Baddie, Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High, and The Day Louis Got Eaten.