Lair of the Geek

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Squickerwonkers-Titan_COVEREvangeline Lilly is an actress instantly recognisable to sci-fi and fantasy fans for her roles as Kate in LOST and Tauriel the elf in The Hobbit trilogy. It turns out that she’s also a keen writer and this rather gorgeous children’s book is her first published work. Lilly tells her tale in quirky poetry and it’s accompanied by beautiful artwork by Johnny Fraser-Allen, a senior conceptual artist for Peter Jackson’s WETA workshops.

The Squickerwonkers is a simple little moral tale about a spoiled and snobby little girl called Selma who comes across a strange travelling theatre populated by the Squickerwonkers of the title. They are a motley crew of weird puppet like individuals. When Selma treats her peculiar hosts with threats and rudeness the true nature of the Squickers reveals itself.

Lilly’s verse is lovely, full of vivid imagery and quick wit. Each character gets a brief portrait highlighting their peculiarities and the deliberately uneven rhythm and rhyme helps build an uneasy sense of threat. And this, of course, is what makes this so good, because Evangeline Lilly understands that children love the tremor of excitement that comes from the disturbing and macabre. It’s reminiscent of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton and all the best fairy tales before Disney sanitised the life out of them.

The writing is complemented perfectly by Fraser-Allen’s gorgeous artwork which manages to be both beautiful and slightly nightmarish at the same time.

In short, it’s fab. It’s certainly not for very young children but, for all kids old enough to feel the thrill of fear about the cupboard monster, or the thing under the bed, it’s just about perfect. Lilly says she was inspired by her own kids’ enjoyment of darker stories. Let’s hope she’s got plenty more tales to share with them and us.

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