I’m letting the little psyches out of their brainbox today, as it seems appropriate for the book we are about to review. I came across Megan’s Brood by Roy Burdine and illustrated by Shawn McManus while browsing Goodreads…or possibly Amazon…or possibly someone’s blog, I can’t quite remember, and downloaded it on a whim. I’m so glad I did, because I have now discovered a fun new series to chase after!
I know I said that this is a middle grade title, but I think this one will have wide appeal, from middle graders right up to adults, so don’t be put off by the MG tag if you’re a snooty grown-up.
Let’s get into it. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Megan’s life is uprooted when her family moves to a new house in a far away town where she discovers a tiny brood of mysterious creatures living in the attic. As she raises them each begin to manifest unique traits of their own — one that blows fire like a dragon, one who sprouts wings and flies, and a girl with a hypnotic singing voice, are just a few among the group.
The mystery of where these fantastical creatures come from and what their ultimate purpose might be leads Megan down an exciting path to adventure and discovery (and not just a little danger!)
There are many things about this book that combined to make it one of those “aaaaahhhh” reads. In case you’re unfamiliar with the definition of an “aaaaahhhh” read (and don’t feel bad if you are, because I only made up the concept just now), it is the kind of read that comes along and averts a looming reading slump by restoring your faith in the existence of original and unexpected books.
Firstly, this is a quick read, with short chapters and action that rolls along. The story is tightly written and while there is plenty of detail to establish the non-human characters in the world, the author doesn’t waste time by drawing anything out. This was, unbeknownst to me, exactly what I needed when I picked this book up, and it was wonderful escapist reading experience and the perfect antidote to some longer, slower books that were cramping my style slightly as I read them concurrently to this one.
Megan’s brood of little creatures are just adorable and I’m sure young female readers will just love the idea of having a little family of fantastical beast pets hatch in their bedroom. Casper, Megan’s next door neighbour, is developed nicely within the constraints of the story length, and it was also good to see parents who are alive, well and unwittingly involved in the story.
The ending of the tale – that is, the ending that appears as an epilogue – took me by surprise and hooked me wholesale into wanting to follow the series when the next book is released. The promise of darker and more sinister happenings in the coming tome is too much to resist!
There isn’t really too much I can knock about this book. Some readers may be disappointed with the brevity of the tale. It does have a bit of a sense of the graphic novel about it, in that they always tend to end with the reader wanting more (or they do for me, anyway).
Cutter, Megan’s cooler, skating neighbour, is a bit of a stereotyped character, but his appearance is brief and action-driven and so this wasn’t as much of an irritation as it could have been.
The full page illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are absolute winners and hit exactly the right spot for flagging what’s about to come while bringing Megan’s world alive. I often wonder why more books for this age group don’t have illustrations because they almost always elevate a book above the common herd.
I also loved the fact that Megan is both confident and idiosyncratic. So often in middle grade and young adult books, main characters who dress differently or have their own style end up being solitary or bullied, but Megan, at least in this initial instalment, is happy to be a bit quirky and eccentric looking, while also being approachable and confident enough to interact with and get to know her new neighbours. Refreshing!
Overall, this fun little read manages to blend edgy fantastic beastliness with a typical “new girl in town” story but leaves out the overdone plot line involving the outsider being ostracised. If you’re looking for a quick read that packs a lot of punch into a small, eyeball-placating package, then I’d definitely recommend getting your claws on Megan’s Brood.
Until next time,