If something is missing, and you’re feeling blue, you could learn from Hector, who feels this way too.
This little genius lives in an upside down boat, and he grunts from his hill like a grumpy old goat:
“Hector van Groat needs no one but Hector, because he is a genius, a crazy inventor!”
Reminiscent of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children or Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, but shorter, more modern and aimed at a younger audience, this first of D.M. Mullan’s Curious Tales is a fun moralistic rhyming romp.
Hector is initially more of a villain than a hero of his own story, as he shrieks and shrills, and lauds his own genius – Babybows (5) solemnly compared him to PJ Masks’ baddie, Romeo, who is also a crazy inventor, while Minishine (8) was reminded of the Grinch.
It only took a page or two, though, for Hector to establish his originality, and for both Minishine and Babybows to observe that his superiority complex was only making him lonely, not happy…
Babybows: He is a bit silly because he keeps on making machines when he should be playing with his friends. I like inventing machines too, like The 1000 [his revolutionary ice-cream-making machine that also fires lasers and can go into space] and The 100 [another amazing rocket machine that spins around and fires lasers AND fire, and also dispenses books for mummy on demand, and has a side-rocket for a monkey companion], but I ALWAYS play with my friends more because it is more fun for them to play with my inventions too!
Minishine: I like how it all rhymes all through the story, and the pictures and inventions were very funny. The words were a little bit sad. I want to know the stories of the other children on the map. Will there be stories for all of the places? I want that girl’s story! [pointing at Blanka von Frock]
There was less gory gruesomeness than the moral tales of yore (which are fine for Babybows, but would give Minishine a fit of the vapors). Both kids LOVED the bit where he stood on his roof in the snow, wearing just a towel – toilet humour and nakedness are the epitome of sophisticated kid humour, apparently!
They also both enjoyed the repetitive refrain, which they could quickly join in with, and the rhyming pattern. The illustrations, too, are engaging for both children and adults, with plenty of details to discuss, including my own favourite aspect – Hector’s spectacularly useless inventions! Plus we all enjoyed having a go at silly voices for Hector’s high-pitched proclamations.
Definitely a great series for bedtime stories – we will be collecting them all – with a simple moral about the importance of friendship that Babybows was able to easily grasp and explain, but enough child-friendly fun to bury the educational lede. We can’t wait to see who will come next!
About the Author: D.M. Mullan is a world-travelled author from County Derry, Northern Ireland. Now living in Belfast with her family, the author will launch the ‘D.M. Mullan’s Curious Tales’ series in 2021; her first work for children.
About the illustrator: Kirsteen Harris-Jones is an illustrator with a colourful past. She’s worked at a variety of creative, graphic and animation studios since 1990. Her work has been published by Random House, Egmont, Bloomsbury, Little Tiger, and more.
Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this tour (see the poster below for details) for more great content and reviews!