Thursday 6 October 2022

How to Make a Pet Monster: Smidgen

How to Make a Pet Monster: Smidgen by Lili Wilkinson and Alex Patrick (Albert Street Books, Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9781761067433

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

Come on, who doesn’t want to have their very own pet monster?

Actually, Artie isn’t so fussed about making pet monsters (even though his monster, Hodgepodge, is now his best friend) but he tends to get dragged along in the monster-making game with his stepsister, Willow, and their neighbour, Arabella-Rose. Together, they make up the three members (plus monsters) of The Monster Club.

Smidgen is the third book in the fun How to Make a Pet Monster series, following on from Hodgepodge (book 1) and Flummox (book 2). Artie and Willow stumbled upon ‘The Bigge Boke of Fetching Monsters’ – a spell book for making monsters – and accidentally created their first monster. So far, the monsters haven’t turned out exactly like the monsters in the Bigge Boke – it happens when you don’t quite have the right ingredients – but they are cute, mischievous, not-at-all-scary and, as it turns out, often rather useful.

In Smidgen, Willow decides she wants to make another monster for herself and settles on a dragon, somewhat larger than their previous two monsters. Before they can get started, a surprise visitor – Zayn Osman – bursts in through their door in a big sloshy mess.

Trying to hide their monster-making activities from Zayn, Willow tells him that The Monster Club is a band – and now Zayn, who is one of the sporty, cool kids at school, thinks they are all pretty cool as well.

They manage to get rid of Zayn but, as usual, their monster making doesn’t go quite to plan – although they do end up with what looks like a chicken egg for their troubles. They’ll just have to wait to see what hatches from it.  

In the meantime, Willow’s father (Artie’s stepfather) is trying to prepare for a cooking show, Whole Lotta Loaf, where the recipe of the day is souffle. Of course, a souffle contains a number of … you guessed … eggs.

Can you see where this is going?

Somehow, the trio, with Zayn in tow, end up on the set of Whole Lotta Loaf and, with the help of Hodgepodge’s farts and Flummox’s ability to mimic any sound, they have to rescue the dragon egg, which is mixed up with all the chicken eggs for the souffles.

Lili Wilkinson’s sense of fun ‘what-if’ scenarios combine beautifully with Alex Patrick’s humorous, cartoon-like pictures to bring the adventures of Artie, Willow, Arabella-Rose and Zayn – along with Hodgepodge and Flummox (and eventually, Smidgen) – to life in a fast-paced story you’ll want to read in one go.

Perfect for independent readers, aged 7–10, or a wonderful read-aloud that can be enjoyed by parents and their younger children.

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