By Maureen Tai, 18 June 2018
“Violence is not just efficient, it feels good too.” – Claudette
Ah, such words of wisdom from Claudette, the ferocious, intrepid and sassy ginger-haired heroine of Giants Beware! She may be pint-sized – like her pet pug Valiant – but she has bucketloads of chutzpah (one of my favourite Yiddish words that loosely translates into “ballsy attitude”). Moreover, she’s intent on slaying the baby-feet eating giant that is holding her village psychologically hostage.
Hold on to your hats, folks! We’re in for a rip-roaring ride.
Fiery Claudette and her bald younger brother Gaston live with their father Augustine, the blacksmith in the medieval village of Mont Petit Pierre. Poppa is burly, greying and has boxer-like features, a veritable Rambo of the Middle Ages, except that he is almost completely limbless after having had a heated altercation with a dragon many years before. Augustine’s assistant at the forge is the hulking, dark-skinned and kindly Zubair, a philosophical and balanced, yet mysterious presence in Claudette’s world.
Claudette’s good friend Marie, the Marquis’ daughter, sweeps around in full skirted gowns, her black hair arranged into two impossible protuberances on her head. Despite being extremely intelligent, Marie yearns to be a princess. She desperately tries to feel the discomfort of a pea through a stack of piled-up mattresses. She swots diligently for etiquette class.
Claudette’s younger sibling Gaston, on the other hand, yearns to learn the art of swordsmanship from his wheelchair-bound father. This is despite Gaston being rather delicate and easily spooked, and his natural talent being in the culinary arts – in particular pastries and desserts. Even when adventuring with his impulsive and hot-headed older sister, Gaston can whip up a mean chocolate roulade with shaved dark chocolate or a crispy pork paillard with roasted cauliflower and spicy mango sauce (armed with just a frying pan and a campfire).
Claudette is bursting with derring-do. She yearns for fame and fortune, and killing the giant will prove how fearless she truly is. Using her guile, Claudette recruits Marie and Gaston to join her cause. Armed with her trusty wooden sword, she leads them through the Forest of Death, along the Mad River, and towards Giant’s Peak where the fearsome monster that has terrorized their village for decades is to be found.
It isn’t easy going. The child-adventurers encounter the Apple Hag, who threatens to boil, blend and devour the little girls in order to free herself of an ancient curse and the Mad River King, who unleashes sharp-toothed eels and barracudas in order to force Marie to marry his fish-faced son. And all this before they’ve even gotten to the main course: the evil giant with a predilection for babies’ feet.
The authors infuse the familiar – heroes/heroines on a quest, stern father figures, princesses, dragons and giants – with unique characteristics, humorous dialogue and fast-paced action. The resulting concoction is an immensely entertaining and lively read that will appeal as much to a 7 year old as a 40+ year old retired corporate lawyer (I can back this up with hard evidence). And when you get to the end, you rejoice because hurrah, there is a sequel – Dragons Beware! – so buckle up!
For ages 7 and up.