Genres in the mix: fantasy, humour, mythology
Age target: MG
Story basics: Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?
Review-in-a-tweet: Sharply witty, a brilliant twist on the Greek myths, plus keenly-observed social commentary. Everyone will love Elliot and root for him!
The emotional ride: Elliot’s home life story is deeply sad, but delivered with warmth and gentle humour so it never becomes too much, or treated with sentimentality rather than genuine emotion (a pet hate of mine – I hate feeling manipulated for cheap emotional impact). The humour of the Gods’ less-than-perfect understanding and abilities to function in the modern world also balances this beautifully.
Hot buttons/classroom opportunities: obvious opportunities to follow up and learn more about the characters, places etc referenced from Greek mythology (and readers are likely to be keen to do that), but child carers as an SMSC/PSHE topic could also be explored from here.
Plotting and pacing: plenty of movement and twists to keep the target audience engaged. It’s clearly the first in a series, and there is more of the overall story to tell, but it’s not left with an unfinished feeling. I definitely want to read the others when they come out.
Hearthfire rating: 9/10 A scorcher!
This is Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for February, which shows how brilliant it is. As well as writing her own books, Maz Evans manages Story Stew, which runs creative writing workshops in schools. She was here on the blog earlier this month talking about writing.
Who Let the Gods Out? is out now in the UK from Chicken House, who provided me with a review copy.
Accepting a review copy does not affect my view of a book and I only finish and review books that I feel able to recommend.
I’m counting this review for the British Books Challenge 2017, my fourth for the challenge (and this book is the featured debut for this month).