32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Howler is a little werewolf with a big problem. Whenever he tries to howl at the moon, his voice is really squeaky and not at all scary. Because all the other werewolves laugh at him, his parents send him to Monster School so he can learn to be frightening.
But Howler finds the school itself frightening- he’s not sure if the teachers or the students are the scariest, particularly when he can’t meet their standards for scary smiles, spooking, or growling. The others laugh at him, his teacher mocks him and he is so woeful he gets expelled!
But on his way home back to the forest in shame, Howler meets some kids out on their annual Hallowe’en trick or treat fun, and he suddenly discovers that it is not only okay to be different but it is also quite useful.
David Walliams has a knack of reaching out to those children who feel they don’t quite fit in and being able to encapsulate their anxiety and then alleviate it in stories that resonate and appeal. Even though they might not aspire to be scary like Howler, nevertheless there is always something we’d like to achieve but not quite reach the peak we set. So this story that shows that the best we can do is good enough and that it can have its own rewards is very reaffirming. This is particularly so at this time when our students are heading back to school after a long absence and may be worried that they haven’t achieved all their peers might have because they haven’t had the same opportunities. While it will have appeal as a story for those who celebrate Hallowe’en, it is one for a broader spectrum because of its life lessons.
But even without going into that sort of depth, it is just a great story with illustrations that epitomise all that we imagine vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, ogres and werewolves to be!