Artie is eleven years old and a science nut. He is slightly anxious, very cautious, and never lies or pushes the boundaries in any way. He is grappling with the changes brought about by becoming part of a blended family, all living in a new home. In particular, he is terrified by his new stepsister, 13-year-old Willow, who is confident, sassy and bold. She keeps her distance and they are not connecting at all. It’s all strange and unfamiliar territory for Artie – he can’t even work out the simplest things, like what to call his new stepdad.
Artie finds comfort in the rules of science – a certainty in his uncertain world – but all of that certainty is about to be tested when he discovers a weird old book abandoned in the attic. The book outlines the magic spells and incantations for making your own monster. Artie absolutely does not believe in magic, but Willow gets her hands on the book and he gets swept up in her enthusiasm to create a monster and before he even realises what is happening, they have conjured up a real, living and breathing monster.
Hodgepodge is just a little monster and not even terrifying. The most harmful thing he does is create mayhem with energetic rumpus and his boisterous behaviour. It seems his one super-power is farting the right scent at the appropriate moment.
Artie and Willow are concerned that they don’t know how to care for this lovable little monster, which they are trying to keep secret from everyone. While they battle with those problems, Hodgepodge is busy with a mission. This is when the story gets really interesting!
This is the first book in a new series of illustrated chapter books for independent readers. Author Lili Wilkinson has teamed up with illustrator Dustin Spence and they have created a warm and highly engaging experience for boys and girls, 7+.
This is Lili Wilkinson’s first book for middle grade readers. She has previously published picture books and YA fiction to great acclaim. This book is written from Artie’s perspective and the tone is very conversational and therefore accessible for readers who may be right at the beginning of their independent reading experience.
Dustin Spence’s illustrations help move the story along and brilliantly capture the cute little mischievous monster, and all his antics. By the end of the story every reader will want their own little Hodgepodge as a companion – he is completely adorable and quite cheeky. There are a lot of comedic moments involving Hodgepodge and the tales of the serious scrapes the kids get into with him are lightened by his farting super-power.
It’s a captivating and delightful story of two kids finding their way in a blended family and forming new relationships with each other and their parents. The monster is an added bonus! In the final chapter we learn that Artie and Willow intend to make another monster, so readers will be intrigued to follow up with the next book to see how the new monster turns out.