I read to my three-year old daughter almost every night. It’s one of the highlights of my day. Usually we read three or four stories depending on the length of each. Nobody Likes a Goblin, by Ben Hatke, stood out enough that I want to write about it. It just might be her favorite book. I got it from my local library and over the two weeks we had it we read it at least once per day.
To give you an idea how much she liked it, she could say what was happening in each frame and say the dialog that went with it. Sometimes when she’s this enthusiastic about a particular book it can be annoying. In the case of Goblin, I didn’t mind the repeated readings.
Nobody Likes a Goblin is a tale about a goblin living in the ruins of a castle whose world is turned upside down by adventurers. I don’t want to say much more about the story because it might spoil it. No really, it has a genuine twist that is really fun.
It turns the Dungeons and Dragons traditions on their head with it hero, the three-foot goblin’s bravery in a much bigger world. Goblin uses his speed, rather than brute strength or magical firepower to be the hero. There’s some implied violence and some threatened violence, but it’s done in a way that toddlers can handle. I did have a hard time explaining what it meant when the narrator says they awaited “their doom”. I said it would mean them being caught. I don’t know what my daughter thinks being caught would mean, but she seemed fine with whatever explanation she invented. The book didn’t need to say “to be stabbed to death” or “be put in a time out”. They can hear about that in other stories when they are older.
The artwork is excellent. Most kids’ books have very elementary artwork that, while fine for the kids, leaves me wishing it was “better”. We both enjoyed looking for the details on every page. For instance, in the dungeon scene where you see the tail of something like a snake. On the next you see the head of the snake. The child gets to put it together that it’s the same snake slithering through a hole in the wall. Touches like that go a long way to turning a five-minute story into ten minutes of “ooh, look there’s a face in the side of the mountain”.
The author graciously gave me the artwork above to use for this article. It has more detail than most art for kids books, but not too much. It’s the right balance between realistic and phantastic*. Here we see our hero talking to his neighbor. For the troll I went with the voice of Ludo from Labyrinth.
* Having the quality of phantasy.