Between 2007 and 2009 these chapter books about five types of goblins were published. I think these particular goblins are part of the fairy folk – they are small, live on the edges of human knowledge and are a touch magical. They’re also quite grimy, fairly ugly and very funny.
I saw these books appear on the shelves of the local bookshop in hardback but as my eldest child was a baby I ignored them. As she grew, and little sister arrived and grew, and we all became addicted to David Melling‘s books, I started collecting signed copies whenever I found them on the shelves (calling out “buy me, buy me”!) They then sat on a shelf, waiting for my daughters to be old enough to read them…
When I sneakily started reading them, I wish I’d started earlier. As an adult, these are tiny portions of books but probably just right for newly confident readers. I have no experience with young readers (MG & DG are still ‘pre-readers’) so this is very much my review with no input from smaller people I’m afraid.
All the books follow the same format: there is a map, pictures and descriptions of the characters in the book, some facts about the type of goblins in the book, the story, an afterword connecting the real world to the goblin world and (in all but ghost goblins) some more goblin info or games. All the pictures in the book are black and white sketches (actually my favourites) with colour covers and inside covers.
Because of the format of the books, they encourage story-writing from young readers: who are your characters, what are their names, what do they do, where do they live? There are even worksheets on the Hidden Goblins website encouraging children to create new goblins. The website is a nice complement to the books, with lots of pictures and an extract from the first book to tempt you.
I do think these books will really draw young readers into a fantasy world, along with all the additional facts packed into the world there is always the hint in the of where you might find goblins: a puddle where everything else is dry; that tapping on the window; the birds singing because they’ve been pushed out of the trees…
Stone Goblins – Live in caves or tunnels, love stones. The story concerns a dragon in the goblins’ lake, and how they get rid of it. It has a dragon in, therefore a winner in my book. Also gross food like plucked spider-legs and toe-jam, fantastic for
children people of a certain age mentality (as long as they’re not of a sensitive disposition…)
Tree Goblins – Live in trees, the males carry their wives and children in nests on their backs. This is a lovely story about family, and parents doing anything to find their children. It’s also about talking trees, strange creatures, pig droppings and sock sucking…
Puddle Goblins – Live in puddles that they can roll up and take with them in case of emergencies. The story concerns a goblin forgotten down a well for six months (ribbit), his rescue and naughty water goblins.
Shadow Goblins – Live in Black Woods, they can steal shadows and change shape. The story follows two trainee shadow goblins as they learn to steal shadows, their fairly useless teacher, some scared sheep and a skeleton… Very silly and a huge amount of fun. The sequences of goblin to watering can and sheep to goblin transformations on the inside covers are inspired.
Ghost Goblins – Dead. This is my personal favourite of the books, unsurprisingly because I like the darker side of humour. The story follows three newly deceased goblins being introduced to the afterlife via Cold Jack, the Windy Nibblers, Nightwatch Beetles and the Bone Collector. Also a riot of humour, silliness (the Windy Nibblers taking out their very sharp teeth before biting!) and brilliant imagination.
The five books can be read in any order as they’re self-contained so children can choose their favourites and read from there. Characters from Stone Goblins appear in Ghost Goblins but they can still be read in any order. Shadow and Ghost Goblins are particularly suitable for children who like ghosts and monsters in their stories, and are probably a good stepping stone for something like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
I would very much definitely recommend these books for children who like fantasy, funny stories and making up their own stories. Suitable age range appears to be about 4-9 depending on the child (although 36 is perfectly okay too!) They would also be good to read aloud. You can visit hiddengoblins.co.uk for more details, or just take my word for it and buy the set
All pictures by David Melling, used with permission.