“Read it again!” Words that many parents and guardians dread when it comes to children’s books. That time of night when you reach for the dog-eared copy of the book you have been reading for three months and think, please not one more night with that damn _____! (Please feel free to fill in the blank with your dreaded character).
Nobody Likes a Goblin (First Second)
While we are trending in a new direction, children’s books can be frivolous and offer very little to entertain the adult orator. Well rest easy nighttime narrators, Ben Hatke’s Nobody Likes a Goblin is sure to entertain adults and children alike.
This is a charming story about a little goblin whose life is turned upside-down when a band of adventurers plunder his cave and steal his best friend, Skeleton. A simple storyline that weaves a tale of adventure, friendship and that feeling we have all experienced at least once in our lives: that nobody likes us. The main character, simply known as Goblin, is cute, for someone with an under bite. He is a simple being that just wants to play with his friend and be liked. He embarks on a journey to find his friend and discovers that people, elves and generally everyone outside of his cave have a distinct opinion about goblins.
When you turn the cover you are immediately struck with a watercolor landscape reminiscent of a dilapidated Irish abbey. This we learn, is Goblin’s home. Hatke uses a black background on many pages to imbue the sense of being in the cave. The series of candlelit cave vignettes pop off the page, effectively isolating moments and creating a timeline. Hatke turns something ominous, a dark cave, into a warm home.
Each page contains striking watercolor and ink illustrations that are bursting with detail and movement. You notice a new element each time you read the book. Each of the characters’ faces emote. Skeleton’s happy skull grin just makes you want to smile and you can almost hear the horrific shriek of the farmer. Take a closer look and adult readers may recognize a few nods to the broader fantasy world. I believe I spied a Gandalf-inspired wizard and a Gimli inspired dwarf.
Nobody Likes a Goblin may appear to be a humble story but there are many lessons contained within. Hatke is brilliant to use a Goblin as a main character. There is no race or ethnicity associated with a Goblin. Children can relate to and identify with this character because anyone can be the Goblin. Kids learn through Goblin’s journey and return home. Hatke uses the same landscape images in a smaller size to retrace his steps home thus developing pattern recognition. There is an emphasis on the strength of friendship and that friends come in many sizes and shapes. Most importantly, we are all reminded that no matter what we may believe, there are people or goblins out there that like you.
Did I like it?
Nobody Likes a Goblin is an absolute delight! Kids will enjoy this story and parents will want to check out the art after the kids go to sleep. Although I recommend that if you will be reading the book for months to come, resist the urge and be pleasantly surprised to discover something new each evening.