Books for reluctant readers: Review of Malamander by Thomas Taylor


Malamander book review - middle fiction

This review of Malamander is part of our ongoing quest to encourage reluctant readers to find their ‘key’ book. Maybe this is the book that will unlock their love of reading?

Malamander is a quirky adventure tale about friendship, being brave, optimistic and, most of all, resourceful. Herbert Lemon is a 12-year-old boy, employed as Lost-and-Founder at the Great Nautilus Hotel in a gothic seaside town called Eerie-on-Sea in winter and Cheerie-on-Sea in summer. It’s a very quiet winter season for Herbie when Violet Palma bursts through the door.

Violet claims she herself is lost and needs to be found. She was left as a baby at the hotel 12 years ago, but she is adamant her parents didn’t abandon her and she wants Herbie to help her find them.

It’s the beginning of a delightful friendship, with Herbie’s smart, savvy cynicism tempered beautifully by Violet’s naive, unflinching optimism. The duo may need to rely on every aspect of their character to survive the mythical (or is he?) Malamander, the chilling sea-monster who is said to control people’s dreams… or does he?

Click here for an interactive map of Eerie-on-Sea.

Map of Eerie on Sea - map of Malamander

In a town filled with quirky characters, the town itself is the most memorable. Eerie-on-Sea is a living, breathing just-the-right-amount-of-creepy place that pours itself into young consciousness and may keep sensitive readers up at night.

For others, Malamander is a fascinating tale of friendship and wonder – just as long as you stay off the beach at night…  The adventure is told in an endearingly rambling style that some kids might find a bit confusing, until they get into it. Then they won’t be able to put this book down.

Buy it at: Booktopia, on sale for $13.95


Ages 9 – ancient (I really enjoyed it myself)

Reminds me of:

•  Harry Potter series by JK Rowling for the touch of magic;

•  A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket for the quirky characters;  

•  Withering-By-Sea by Judith Rossell for the peculiar atmosphere;

•  Book Of Secrets by AL Tait for the rolling-along storyline.

Things to note:

•  Dark and scary atmosphere

•  Secret Seven-style unsupervised children, 24/7 

Fun facts: 

•  Thomas Taylor illustrated the cover art for the original paperback version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone.

•  Eerie-on-Sea was inspired by Taylor’s hometown of Hastings in East Essex, UK. You can read about it here.

•  This is the first book in a trilogy. Publishers fought over the publishing rights, with Walker Books the ultimate winner.

I loved writing this review of Malamander. Do you think it’s a key book for your child?

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Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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