Written by Jordan Kopy & Illustrated by Chris Jevons
It’s just shy of midnight on Halloween and in an unmarked grave in an abandoned cemetery, a tiny human, swaddled in blankets is wailing like a banshee. A zombie named George Hendrix claws his way out of the earth and he and his best friend Bandit, a masked vampire cat rescue the baby and take her to a sprawling mansion in the village of Appleton, Pumpkinshire. But this is no ordinary mansion…it is in fact occupied by the Monstrous League of Monsters (MLM) and they vow to take care of the baby.
Fast forward 10 years and the baby, Theodora Hendrix is unperturbed by her unconventional upbringing and has ingratiated herself in her adopted family. We are introduced to the most marvellous cast of monstrous family members. There’s Helter-Skelter the skeleton butler, Theodora’s mum ‘Mummy’ the, well, Egyptian mummy, Hamlet the skull, Mousetrap the crow and Figaro the operatic ghost to name but a few. Sherman the spider (well actually he’s a tarantula), is Theodora’s dapper arachnid associate. Suited and booted in a top hat and a monocle on each of his 8 eyes he is loyal to a fault – in this case man’s best friend is most definitely monstrous! The concept is really clever and the characters were reminiscent of The Addams Family or The Munsters.
But the first rule of the MLM Charter is “Keep monsters hidden from humans’ and when a series of anonymous letters (sealed with earwax) arrive, it seems that someone has discovered their secret and they threaten to tear Theodora from her beloved family of beasts. Brave Theodora, assisted by her first-ever human friend Dexter Adebola must solve the mystery of the menacing letters and save her family.
The tale is told by a mysterious narrator who is very careful not to reveal their identity but is clearly very experienced in the monster world- they’ve walked right through a ghost don’t you know! I’ve been back through the book and analysed the tasty morsels they throw us every so often to hint at who they really are but I cannot for the life in me guess who they could be! Whoever they are, I found their narration so entertaining, they way they speak so dryly and directly to the reader and constantly poke fun at grown-ups!
“Have you ever dragged your nails down the side of a blackboard? It makes an awful screeching sound (if your teacher is annoying you, I suggest giving it a try)“
Equally, I was left puzzling over the identity of Theodora’s birth parents and the reasons why she was left in the graveyard – there are so many unanswered questions, there just has to be another book in the series! I can’t be left hanging like this!
Chris Jevons’ illustrations are highly engaging, sure to grab the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. My children said the mansion reminded them of the one in the film ‘Monster House’ a favourite Halloween film of theirs.
As well as being extremely humorous, Theodora Hendrix is also very heart-warming. I loved the friendship that develops between Theodora and Dexter and the chapter where Theodora’s family all work together to hide the fact that they are monsters from Dexter when he’s invited to the mansion for a play-date is hilarious! Dexter Adebola’s character highlights the struggle of fitting into a new school and being a person of colour in a predominantly white setting.
Theodora Hendrix is a magnificently monstrous, story that skilfully blends horror and humour for younger readers, as well as delivering important messages about adoption, diversity, differences and inclusion. There is plenty of intrigue for children to reason out and discuss but without it being too complex that they loose the thread of the story. With Halloween coming up, this is the perfect treat for children aged 7-9years.
I’m really looking forward to the next instalment of Theodora Hendrix and her Monstrous league of Monsters, especially as our narrator has dropped hints that we’re ‘agents in training…’
With thanks to NetGalley and Walker Books for allowing me to review a digital copy of the book in advance of publication.