"A satisfying, well-told story of an orphan boy who escapes the clutches of his pirate abductors, proves himself courageous and finds the real treasure of family."– Kirkus Reviews
In this mildly scary, funny picture book, a mom’s bedtime-story ploy encourages her little boy to clean up his messy room or risk attracting the attention of a hungry “sock monster.”
In her first picture book, author Campbell (Scream: A Lakeview Novel, 2015) imparts a tidy-up lesson with gentle humor, enhanced by artist Thieme’s quirky illustrations. Little Billy’s idea of picking up his dirty laundry at the end of the day is to stuff it under the bed and in any available closet or corner. When Billy asks for a scary bedtime story, his mom, a savvy sort who isn’t above using a tricky scare tactic to make a point, decides the time is right for a particularly apt tale about a sneaky, slithery, laundry-hungry Sock Monster with a penchant for hiding under beds with found footwear. (The book’s target audience will undoubtedly get “ew, gross” enjoyment out of Campbell’s description: “his head is made of underwear. His arms are dirty socks.” And, “he slurps and burps and gathers dirt, loving all the goo.”) Billy’s not thrilled with the direction the story takes, and when Mom says goodnight and turns off the light, he, unsurprisingly, has trouble going to sleep, imagining that every sound—dog scratching, pet mouse squeaking—is the Sock Monster, attracted by Billy’s messy “clean-up.” Billy knows that there is just one thing to do. He gathers up all of his potential Sock Monster fodder and fills his laundry basket. Humorously, the author doesn’t let Mom rest easy on her laurels, however. Adults will appreciate the fun little visual twist at the end, courtesy of illustrator Thieme, which gives Mom a taste of her own medicine. (Kids will, too, although they may need the joke explained to them.) Indeed, the appeal of this lighthearted “message” picture book is due in great part to the offbeat charm of Thieme’s colorful illustrations.
An unexpected twist and wacky, well-rendered illustrations keep this simple picture book from skewing a bit preachy and dark, despite its clean-your-room lesson.
A high-seas middle-grade adventure about an orphan captured by pirates who befriends a talking mouse.
In her first middle-grade novel, Campbell (Whisper, 2014, etc.) tells the tale of Christopher, a 13-year-old boy who escapes the Norphan Home for Wayward Boys and falls into the clutches of two pirates named Boots and Stinky. After he overhears their plan to steal the merchant vessel Georgiana, they force him to accompany them aboard the ship. Boots convinces the Georgiana’s Capt. Hughes and his young daughter, Lucy, that the boy is his mute nephew. Aboard the ship, Christopher also meets Leonardo Mousekins, a brown talking mouse who acts as his guide. The pirates tell Christopher that he must pretend to be mute during the voyage to the island of Tortola and say nothing of their plot or they’ll kill him. Later, a storm rocks the ship, and the admiral on board suffers a gunshot wound; Christopher fetches the ship’s surgeon in time to save him, winning the admiration of Capt. Hughes, Lucy and the crew. Eventually, Christopher tells Lucy he isn’t mute, and the girl alerts her father to the traitors on board who plan to hand over the ship to the pirate Red Blade, captain of the Dragon’s Breath. Christopher tries to bring the mutineers to justice, uncover lost treasures, retain the affection of his new friends, and make a home with a new family. Readers will discover several story elements here that seem vaguely familiar. Christopher, for example, seems to embody both the courageous John Darling from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and the good-natured Christopher Robin from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. Leo appears to be an amalgam of Feivel Mousekewitz from the 1986 film An American Tail and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio (1940). Other elements, such as the voyage to Tortola and the discovery of buried treasure, seem to borrow inspiration from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Yet, despite these familiar notes, Campbell’s novel is a delightful symphony for children, tuned with evocative prose that conjures images of the seafaring life: “[O]n top of a mound of molding fishnets, a fat street cat sat contentedly, cleaning his paws.”
A satisfying, well-told story of an orphan boy who escapes the clutches of his pirate abductors, proves himself courageous and finds the real treasure of family.