Genre: MG Fantasy
Length: 288 Pages
Release Date: 30th September 2021
Lemony Snicket meets Roald Dahl in this riotously funny, deliciously macabre, and highly illustrated sequel to The Beast and the Bethany in which Bethany and Ebenezer try to turn over a new leaf, only to have someone—or something—thwart them at every turn.
Once upon a very badly behaved time, 511-year-old Ebenezer kept a beast in his attic. He would feed the beast all manner of objects and creatures and in return the beast would vomit him up expensive presents. But then the Bethany arrived.
Now notorious prankster Bethany, along with her new feathery friend Claudette, is determined that she and Ebenezer are going to de-beast their lives and Do Good. But Bethany finds that being a former prankster makes it hard to get taken on for voluntary work. And Ebenezer secretly misses the beast’s vomity gifts. And neither of them are all that sure what “good people” do anyway.
Then there’s Claudette, who’s not been feeling herself recently. Has she eaten something that has disagreed with her?
Welcome to my stop on The WriteReads blog tour for this excellent sequel to The Beast and the Bethany.
This was absolutely delightful, which is no surprise considering how much I enjoyed the first book.
Ebenezer is 511 years old, and his life has been completely changed. Previously, he kept a beast in his attic, and in exchange for expensive and wonderful presents, Ebenezer fed the beast. Until Bethany arrived. Now, Bethany is trying to make amends for her past behaviour, and she decides she and Ebenezer must de-beast their lives and Do Good, with some help from Claudette. But the parrot hasn’t quite been feeling herself recently.
I really like how a lot of this book is, essentially, about redemption. Ebenezer tries to avoid the de-beasting process, but he ends up roped in as usual and finding maybe it’s not all that bad. It’s really sweet seeing him and Bethany trying to work out what it means to Do Good, and it’s truly awful when the rest of the town act badly towards Bethany because of what she’s done in the past. Bethany and Ebenezer are pushed away from each other, but they are an unusual pair who really do need to each other, who work best when they’re together.
There’s also the addition of a new character, a little girl at the Orphanage because her parents no longer want to deal with her. And yes, absolutely, she is a Right Little Horror, but Jack Meggitt-Phillips shows even with her not all is as it seems, and there are moments when you can’t help but feel truly, deeply sorry for her, able to see just through glimpses of her, her parents, and the way she interacts with others, why she is like she is and how, like many problem children, there’s something else going on with her.
The book plays on tropes and ideas, and it’s hard not to root for both Bethany and Ebenezer as the reader becomes more aware of what’s happening, while the characters are still unaware or trying to work things out. Like most children’s books, there are lessons here – about friendship and support, redemption, and how it’s not always easy to truly Do Good. But Bethany keeps trying, even after most of the town have made her feel unwanted, and there’s perhaps a lesson for adults here too, who condemn children who misbehave and continue to treat them as ‘monsters’, even after they’ve tried to make amends.
It’s a wonderful cast of characters, and of course the reappearance of the beast raises the stakes. It really feels like the next step in their journey as friends, and these two grow alongside each other. The humour used is absolutely brilliant, too, witty and funny without veering towards cruel.
There’s plenty to truly enjoy about this book, whether you’re a younger reader or young at heart.
About the Author
Jack Meggitt-Phillips is an author, scriptwriter, and playwright whose work has been performed at The Roundhouse and featured on Radio 4. He is scriptwriter and presenter of The History of Advertising podcast. In his mind, Jack is an enormously talented ballroom dancer, however his enthusiasm far surpasses his actual talent. Jack lives in north London where he spends most of his time drinking peculiar teas and reading P.G. Wodehouse novels.