Book Review: Monkey Boy, by Donovan Bixley

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

This is Donovan Bixley’s first shot at writing rather than drawing a whole book, or providing illustrations for someone else’s text.

Here we go: Rating on a boy scalecv_monkey_boy
Jimmy sees dead people 10/10
Real grossness 10/10
Historical accuracy 10/10
Appeal to boys 10/10
Illustrations 10/10

Now, to the reviewing part.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, reluctantly. Recently I gave an opinion about YA literature and said (a comment by which I stand) that literature is literature and YA books are not targeted at a particular audience.

If I define YA to be kids over the age of 12-13, then I think my comment is valid.

When I come to Monkey Boy, however, the target audience is quite evidently not that of a grandmother-aged librarian! My preference is clearly not for scatological reference, in abundance, nor for historically-accurate impressions of life aboard an 18th century gunship. Despite this, I have to endorse Donovan’s first novel. It is revoltingly funny, wickedly violent and although rather stereotypical in its depiction of the officer/crew split, nonetheless it works remarkably well.

The combination of clever text and dialogue, excellent diagrams and quite a lot of graphic detail (aka drawings) makes a well-constructed book. There are enough sub-plots to keep the average reader engaged and guessing, enough grossness to amuse the least literate and enough action to satisfy most reluctant readers. There’s also enough great material to keep most readers (even me!) engaged. Characters are, as I said, a bit stereotypical – but if this gets boys reading, I’m going to endorse it.

I am about to test-drive it on some 12-13 year olds. We’ll see how that goes. I am expecting good reviews.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman, Librarian

Monkey Boy
by Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431862