Books & Literature

Book Review: The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm: Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters 1, by Karen Foxlee, illustrated by Freda Chiu

MIDDLE GRADE: A delightful fantasy adventure from the award-winning and bestselling author of Lenny’s Book of Everything and Dragon Skin, with lively line illustrations by Freda Chiu.

A lovely, easy to read story for the middle- grade reader about a child who needs to get past her anxiety to save a town and its monster.

Queensland author Karen Foxlee has won various notable awards for her middle grade novels, particularly her last two books, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Dragon Skin.

Foxlee has the ability to create a world which is easy to imagine, captivating the reader from beginning to end. Whether it be set in the real world, or one which has an element of fantasy, the reader is always taken on a ride. All her stories so far have a young female central character and The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm is no exception. They have all faced adversity overcoming a family difficulty or personal trait.

When we first pick up the book, the reader is drawn to the bright purple cover. On it, the main character, Mary-Kate, walks along writing something in a notebook. With over 250 pages, the book is a good size for a middle grade child and the illustrations by Chiu give it an almost old-world feeling. The map of Woolington Well at beginning of the book helps the reader understand the layout of the village.

The colour chosen for the front cover becomes obvious when we realise the importance of colour in Mary-Kate’s life—evident in what she wears, colours she is afraid of or dislikes with a passion (particularly brown), and the colours she uses when taking notes.

Part realistic, part fantasy, The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm is set somewhere in England. Mary-Kate must accompany her archaeologist mother to the village of Woolington Well for a dig. Her father disappeared some time ago in Mount Shishapangma and the only thing she has to remind herself of him is five pieces of gum.

Mary-Kate finds change difficult and throughout the book we discover she has various methods to overcome this anxiety: squeezing her stress ball, making lists, breathing exercises, and thinking of five things she can hear, see and feel. She also has her lucky novelty torch, lucky international coin collection in a small glass jar, glitter pens, red sparkly shoes and a sparkly red backpack (coordinating is important!).

Many children who may be on the autism spectrum, suffering from OCD, or have anxiety, will relate to Mary-Kate. They may also discover new ways to manage their own lives, like breaking a big problem into a series of smaller tasks. 

When Mary-Kate arrives, she finds out the village is being terrorised by a giant Wyrm which is apparently hundreds of years old. The local lord wants to turn the village into a huge shopping centre, but the Wyrm Watch Society have called her mother, the Professor, to see if she can find archaeological evidence to stop the new construction.

Arabella, the daughter of Lord Woolington, wants to be friends with Mary-Kate because she too wants to save the Wyrm. Arabella is everything that Mary-Kate is not: loud, talkative, friendly, adventurous. Making new friends isn’t something that comes easy to Mary-Kate so she must summon all her inner resources to be able to spend time with Arabella.

At the beginning of each chapter there is an excerpt from P.K. Mayberry’s Complete Guide to Monsters of the Northern Hemisphere. This is a nice lead in what happens in the following chapter.

As with her other books, The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm is about love, courage, never giving up, and personal growth. But this story is also about making new friends, accepting change, and trusting your instincts.

This is the first book of what will become a series of adventures for Mary-Kate as she becomes an amateur detective, solving problems in her own unique way.

The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm also has lessons for us all: is it really a good idea for our special things to just sit on the shelf? Sometimes things need to be used to bring us joy.

In this story we learn that Mary-Kate has always been bad at beginnings and endings, but she was very good at middles. Maybe you need to also start by picking up this lovely book.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: May 2022
RRP: $14.99

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