Wednesday 15 October 2014

Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch by Eric Orchard (Top Shelf Books)

Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch

Written and Illustrated by
Eric Orchard

Published by Top Shelf Books

Here at ReadItDaddy we firmly believe that comics are a vital and important part of a child's literacy journey. Mumblings and whisperings in the industry agree, and many folk feel that we're on the brink of a true "Golden Age" of children's comics that shrug off pratfall funnies, simplistic storylines or licensed tie-ins in favour of far more engaging and original plots and characters.

We've been following Eric Orchard's work on Twitter for quite some time, and saw the first fleeting glimpses of "Maddy Kettle" as something we'd definitely love to take a closer look at. Eric rather kindly got in touch and let us take a sneaky early peek of his first Maddy Kettle adventure, published on 14th October 2014 by Top Shelf Books.

At first glimpse it looks Gaiman-esque, which definitely is no bad thing. Charlotte pointed out that she thought Maddy looked like Coraline - so was instantly interested in finding out more. Technically Charlotte is probably a bit too 'young' for Maddy Kettle but though the story can be fairly dark in places, it's not gruesome or disturbing - in fact it's completely and utterly riveting from page 1.

Maddy is a young girl who lives in a land where magic still holds court. The story throws the reader right in at the deep end, with Maddy travelling in a dusty railway wagon - and only two rats and a strange floating frog named Ralph for company.

We were drawn in by Eric's artwork, darkly mysterious and foreboding, as we found out that the two rats are actually Maddy's parents, changed into rats by the evil Thimblewitch. With the story hurling you right into the thick of the plot, you can't possibly resist reading on.

Maddy decides to set out on a perilous journey (against her parents' wishes) to find the Thimblewitch, defeat her and change her parents back into human beings. It's a huge quest to take on for a little girl, but Maddy is brave and courageous, and firmly believes that she can turn the tables on the evil old hag before the change becomes permanent, and her parents spend all their time gnawing books rather than reading them.

Just when you're comfortable with the idea that the plot will be a linear "Go there, defeat Witch, go back to normal" deal, Eric gives everything a good solid twist - and another - and another, establishing Maddy as the sort of mighty girl hero that we absolutely crave to read about in books. Joining the ranks of Hilda and Coraline, Maddy will stop at nothing to help her family because - as she points out early on in the story - no one else is going to save them, and living a life on the run is no life at all.

It's as dark and delicious as that first slug of coffee in the morning and if this is book 1, we are absolutely on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the story becoming a series.

If (like us) you believe children's comics are more than just cheap gags or lightweight stories, then this is going to fit you like a comfy pair of satin gloves.

"Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch" by Eric Orchard, out now from Top Shelf Books.

Charlotte's best bit: The witch's nefarious stitched-together guards who prove no match for mighty Maddy

Daddy's Favourite bit: Scintillating characters, brilliant art, a deeply dark and rich twisty plot (our favourite sort). Loved every minute of it and cannot wait for more Maddy!

(Kindly sent to us in PDF form for preview by Eric Orchard / Top Shelf)