From curious beasts to cautionary tales: 7 brilliantly beastly books to try

Published on: 15 Medi 2020

Jack Meggitt-Phillips' new book The Beast and the Bethany is - as the title suggests - all about a girl called Bethany and a 511-year-old beast! Here, he chooses seven of his favourite monstrous titles for anyone hoping to build a beastly bookshelf...

A photograph of Jack Meggitt-Phillips and the front cover of his book The Beast and the Bethany

The Beast and the Bethany is a children's book about a beast - a youthful 511-year-old - and a child who's about to be eaten. It's out this month, and it's filled with bone-crunching villainy, rebellious pranksters, and morally questionable sandwich recipes – a.k.a. all the things I demanded to read about as a child.

If you have similarly beastly reading tastes, you may also enjoy these books...

1. Flanimals by Ricky Gervais

Curious beasts are naturally a fixation of mine, and I make sure to carry around my pocket guide edition of Flanimals at all times. Today, I've had the joy of spotting three Glonks and a doe-eyed Munty Flumple, and the misfortune of being spotted by a hungry Adult Mernimbler. I shall most likely have perished by the time you read this.

2. The Twits by Roald Dahl

An illustration of The Twits

Illustration: Sir Quentin Blake

This was the first time I felt guilty for reading a book in a classroom - it seemed far too hilarious and horrifying to count as work. Even now, whenever I read about the Dreaded Shrinks, and the worm spaghetti, I feel like I'm committing some grave, yet delightful, act of naughtiness.

Read our review of The Twits

3. The Day My Bum Went Psycho by Andy Griffiths

I was deeply suspicious of my bottom long before this tale had the bare-faced cheek to take residence on my bookshelf. A surprisingly moving story, which has not only confirmed but also intensified my derriere-related paranoia.

4. Cautionary Tales for Children by Hilaire Belloc

It is said that every book has something to teach you. For instance, readers of The Beast and the Bethany will learn the enormously important lesson that one should always flee from the beast - especially if the beast is in a snackish sort of mood.

In these verses, Mr Belloc explains why liars will inevitably perish in fires, why door-slammers will be flattened, and how those who have a penchant for chewing little bits of string will be cursed with the most frightful of ends.

5. A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison

The front cover of A Sprinkle of Sorcery

I have just started reading this, and I am already in love with it. Dollops of spookiness, ladles of magic, and a healthy bucket of wonder - this has me turning pages so fast that my poor fingers are lacerated with papercuts.

Read our review of A Sprinkle of Sorcery

6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

No beastly list would be complete without a Victorian spine-chiller, and this is one of the spiniest and chilliest of them all.

Readers of a kindly disposition focus on the smushy, cuddly bits, but at its heart, this is a rippingly good ghost story filled with phantom knockers, ghoulish ghosts, and church bells that chatter in the fearsome fog. Perfect for a spot of summer reading.

7. When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket

If it were not for a certain Mr Snicket, it's likely that I would have never taken to reading, let alone writing. His books are dripping with misery, woe, and sheer terror - all the essential ingredients needed to captivate children, and show them that reading can be as exhilarating as the most dangerous and ill-tested of rollercoasters.

This one is currently my favourite, but I'll probably have changed my mind again by tomorrow.


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