Miss Mary-Kate Martin's Guide to Monsters: The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm; Karen Foxlee, illustrated by Freda Chiu
Tales of mythical creatures roaming the land and traumatising local villagers are the stuff of historical legend in many an English village, and Woolington Well is the latest place with a story to tell.
Ten-year-old Mary-Kate Martin likes order and routine in her life. So when her archaeologist mother is requested in Woolington Well to inspect some old bones, Mary-Kate’s anxiety levels are immediately heightened. And the atmosphere in the small village does nothing to quell any fears. Terrifying noises and heart-stopping earth tremors have the locals nervous, saucers of milk are on the doorsteps and whispers of the return of a legendary monster are the talk of the town. Has the construction of a new shopping centre awoken the Woolington Wyrm?
Mary-Kate may be anxious but someone needs to get to the bottom of this puzzle. Together with new friend Arabella, she vows to solve the the mystery of the Wyrm (if in fact it does exist)…
Written by Karen Foxlee and with black and white illustrations by Freda Chiu, The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm is a monstrously fun mystery where all is definitely not as it seems in the rural countryside village. Residents live in the grip of fear that the legendary Wyrm could reappear at any moment and the mystery-filled plot will keep you guessing - is the Wyrm friend or foe, is it really behind the disappearance of children and what secrets is Lord Woolington hiding?
A strong and surprising friendship is at the heart of this fantasy-filled adventure. The quiet, cautious and anxious Mary-Kate pairing up with the excitable, spontaneous and carefree Lady Arabella Woolington to uncover the truth behind the legend. Working together, the girls separate fact from fiction, legends from lies, and find themselves embarking on the adventure of a lifetime as they venture deep into the heart of the Wyrm’s den.
Dressed in her sparkly red shoes and equipped with strawberry-scented notebook, glitter pens and backpack, Mary-Kate is a quiet and unassuming heroine and those qualities make her really relatable, likeable and real; yes, anxious, quiet and cautious kids can be brave, adventurous and daring too. Despite being beset by worries, Mary-Kate has a range of coping strategies that she regularly uses to keep her emotions in check and that enables her to overcome her fears. She unceremoniously becomes the heroine the villagers need and establishes herself as monster-hunter extraordinaire which sets things up nicely for further escapades.
Young readers who like their stories to have a fantastical element and who are excited by the idea of hunting monsters are going to love this story and will be dreaming of their own adventures where they can save monsters and villages. In the absence of any monsters that need saving, readers will be more than happy to live vicariously through Mary-Kate.
The monstrously exciting read comes with lots of little extras that all add to the reading experience including a map of Woolington Well, illustrations, and quotes from P. K. Mayberry’s Complete Guide to Monsters of the Northern Hemisphere that precede each chapter and give an indication of events to come.
Mary-Kate will be back for more monster-hunting in book two, The Trouble with the Two-headed Hydra (an excerpt of which is included at the end of this book).
With huge thanks to Allen & Unwin for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 7+.