Books & Literature

Book Review: The Bother with the Bonkillyknock Beast: Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters, by Karen Foxlee, illustrated by Freda Chiu

MIDDLE-GRADE: Miss Mary-Kate Martin travels the globe with her family helping solve monstrous problems in this fun fantasy adventure from the multi-award-winning author of Dragon Skin and Lenny’s Book of Everything.

Children who are challenged by new experiences may find this books helps them realise they are not alone.

Feature image credit: Allen & Unwin

Australian author Karen Foxlee grew up in Mt Isa, Queensland. She is best known for her award-winning middle-grade novels, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Dragon Skin. The Bother with the Bonkillyknock Beast is the third book in her Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters series.

Mary-Kate Martin has discovered that she is from a family who are members of the World Society of Monster Hunters (W.S.M.H.). Her father disappeared on Mount Shishpangma when she was five. While her mum (Prof) is away, Mary-Kate thinks she is just going to Scotland on a relaxing holiday with her granny to a quiet castle near a quiet loch. She is imagining her time will be spent reading books by a fire place and going on long walks.

But alas, quite soon Mary-Kate realises this is not going to be the quiet holiday she was expecting as this castle is hosting the World Society of Monster Hunters’ Conference. She discovers her granny is also a monster hunter and there would be other novice monster hunters attending. This fills Mary-Kate with dread as she doesn’t like having to meet new people or even talk to other people.

Mary-Kate is very endearing. She suffers from anxiety and needs to make sure she packs all her “lucky” things, many of them reminding her of her father. She doesn’t like surprises at all. She also needs to make sure her outfits match and she has a notebook with her special glitter pens.

Of course, there are eventually monsters involved and Mary-Kate and her new friends find themselves at the centre of another mystery.

Foxlee is a great writer. Her characters all have heart, and as readers we become invested in their lives. We are easily able to imagine the cold and eerie castle with its large fireplaces and paintings of ancestors on the walls. Each character has flaws and we are sometimes wondering who really is telling the truth.

Because Mary-Kate struggles with new things which are out of her control, those children who also have difficulty with the unknown may realise they too can be just a little braver. Mary-Kate has different strategies to deal with her anxiety, like slow breathing, writing things down, and being as prepared as she can be. She is also always kind and compassionate. She has learnt to trust her feelings.

The book cover is in a bright-red colour, which distinguishes it from the previous two books which were blue and purple. We see Mary-Kate standing outside a castle, holding a candle under a full moon. Behind her there is a large green dog-like creature. Dotted throughout the book are lovely pencil illustrations by Freda Chiu.

At the beginning of each chapter, Foxlee always gives us a short excerpt from relevant literature. This time they are from The Best Advice for a Beginner pamphlet, W.S.M.H. XCIII Conference Material.

The Bother with the Bonkillyknock Beast is a perfect third instalment to this lovely series for middle-grade children. It can be read as a stand-alone book, but readers will want to discover Mary-Kate’s other exploits. And for those who have fallen in love with this kind and quirky character, this is the perfect addition to your collection.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: January 2024
RRP: $15.99

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