Apr/May 2002 Book Reviews

Goblin in the Bush

Victor Kelleher (Illustrated by Stephen Michael King)
Random House, (Jan 2002) 75 pages
ISBN: 0 1 74051 770 9

reviewed by Ann Skea

Gibblewort is a nasty, warty, Irish goblin who gets fed up with the rain in Ireland and posts himself to Australia. His encounters with Australian wildlife, however, are not happy, and he ends up by going home.

As a relative newcomer to the joys of grandparenting, I thought the story sounded amusing and the drawings looked like fun, but there was no indication on the advertising material or on the book of which children's age-group for which it was written. So I tried it out on Jai, who is not quite four but is a story-lover who enjoys being read to.

Although the story is broken into tiny chapters, each dealing with a single encounter between Gibblewort and an Australian animal, Jai chose to hear the whole story in one sitting. He was amused by the idea of Gibblewort packing himself in a postbag and being posted to Australia. He was worried by Gibblewort being bitten by bull-ants. He held his foot and his ear, like Gibblewort after his encounters with the bull-ants and the Emu. And he was a little scared about the stick which turned out to be a snake. Gibblewort was, I think, a bit too nasty for him, and he found these encounters scary rather than funny. When I left to go home, Jai insisted that I take the book with me. He didn't want Gibblewort staying at his house, it seemed. So much for four-year-old customers!

Slightly older children might enjoy the humour more, but Gibblewort, in the end, is not a character to arouse much sympathy, even if the little girl in the story does take pity on him. Six-year-olds, perhaps, would enjoy Gibblewort's misery; seven-year-olds, in my experience, would scorn him and find the chapters too short.

Baby-sitters, grandparents, and other adults who want something short-and-sour to read to their charges at bedtime will find this book not too short, not too long, but juuuuust right. If they are Homer Simpson fans, too, they may notice that Gibblewort often looks just like Homer's boss. He certainly acts like him!


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