This book is a madcap and surreal adventure starring Messy Monster, his friends Zoe and Felix, and Platoo the philosopher. We also meet a pair of cats, Cutty and Doodle, who live up to their names by inviting kids to get creative as the story unfolds. All these characters go to help the Kiri Kiri islanders, who are afraid to fall asleep at night because they are haunted by awful nightmares. It’s up to Messy Monster and crew to travel to the Planet of the Dreaming Mountains to discover the source of the nightmares.
The narrative is injected with the odd scientific reference such as ‘Wind is very useful for travelling’and shows us how to make a ‘nightmare box’ – clearly exposing the ethos of the magazine OKIDO, an arts and science magazine for kids, where the Messy Monster character originates.
Rachel Ortas’s colourful mixed media illustration is the real star of this book. Unusual patterns and texture as well as large faces with large eyes give a nod towards Japanese and Asian illustration. The screenprint techniques mixed with woodcut and a wonderfully reduced palette, which changes from hot to cold depending on mood, have something fresh and quite original that serves the madcap story well.
My only criticism is that with the endless happenings the story doesn’t quite hang together as a whole. A messy monster doesn’t mean a messy narrative! To tie elements of make and do, scientific fact, narrative, surrealism and sharp story twists, takes a discipline that is somewhat lacking here, and I think a young child will be confused. Had the story been slightly simpler, it would have workedmore effectively.
However, the artwork and production are to be highly recommended.