Tuesday 5 July 2022
CBR14 Book 13: "The Beast and the Bethany" by Jack Meggitt-Phillips
Rating: 4 stars
Ebenezer Tweezer is 511 years old, but you'd never know it to look at him. He lives in a great big house, surrounded by exciting treasures and artifacts and all of this is possible because of the hideous beast he keep in his attic. In return for Ebenezer feading it interesting things, the Beast gives him potions once a year that keep Ebenezer young and beautiful. It's also given him all the special things in his house. However, the Beast is greedy and grows more demanding with each passing year. It only wants to eat things it's never tried before, which in 511 years you can imagine isn't that long a list. The Beast has decided that it wants to eat a nice, juicy child, which may be a line not even Ebenezer will cross.
Of course, if the Beast withholds Ebenezer's potions, he'll start aging at a rapid pace, and after a day or two of feeling the effects of age creeping up on him, Ebenezer starts pondering solutions. If he were to feed a really bad child to the Beast, would that really be such a terrible thing? At first, Ebenezer tries to steal a child from the zoo, but all the children there seem terribly well protected by parents. Then he's told about the local orphanage and goes there to find a child that will do instead. However, Ebenezer isn't expecting to get so charmed by so many of the children. Then he encounters Bethany, a very surly and unpleasant little girl, and she seems to be the solution to all of his problems. Then, when Bethany actually meets the Beast, she insults it so gravely it almost refuses to even consider eating her, which would very much be counter to Ebenezer's plans.
He decides to take Bethany away and try to fatten her up a bit (she's terribly skinny), while also trying to persuade the Beast that Bethany is in fact exactly the sort of plump and succulent child it has demanded. Completely contrary to Ebenezer's plans, however, is how he starts to warm to her and see actual improvement in her behaviour after a few days together. The longer the two spend together, the more like friends they become, and soon, Ebenezer can no longer live with the idea of feeding Bethany to the Beast. He is aging rather rapidly, though, and the Beast really doesn't like to be told it can't have what it wants. It's up to Bethina to come up with a solution that gets rid of the Beast once and for all, so she and Ebenezer can live happily ever after.
This is delightful middle grade book which I very much look forward to my own son reading at some point in the future. I suspect readers of Roald Dahl, A Series of Unfortunate Events or fans of Despicable Me would find it very entertaining. The book is illustrated throughout with beautiful and very funny pictures by Isabelle Folath, and it was a very quick read in a month when I otherwise managed to complete very few books. I know that there is now a sequel, so I suppose I should see if my local library has a copy. I wouldn't mind spending some more time with Bethany and Ebenezer.
Judging a book by its cover: I pretty much adore this cover. The almost neon green to draw your eye in (on my copy, the endpapers are sprayed the same lurid colour!), the fang-tastic maw and the no-nonsense little girl in the middle. I wanted to read this the first time I saw it on a library shelf.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.