Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Not being familiar with Simon Farnaby’s Paddington 2 movie or The Horrible Histories series, I came to read The Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild with no preconceived notions.
On reading chapter one, I could just imagine an adult reading this story to a younger child and them both enjoying it immensely. There are even words in larger print for emphasis. The accompanying illustrations add a focus to the story. On reading further, I realised that this book would be more suited to the pre-teen.
At this stage, I wondered what were the elements which made a good children’s book. Research suggested that it should be familiar but hold some surprises too. It should contain an element of the matter of fact, the things that happen every day. Some suggest that the story should somehow be instructive or nutritive, often morally so. C. S. Lewis believes that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.
With these ideas in the back of my mind I read on.
The Wizard in my Shed – the Misadventures of MERDYN the WILD does fit most of these criteria especially if Lewis is correct. I thoroughly enjoyed this story except for the bits about the poos and wees. I’m sure the younger reader would enjoy these bits though.
The first chapter is set in THE DARK AGES which the author says was ‘not because it was always dark…but because nobody REALLY knows what happened during this time’ (1).
The language of the time is used during the trial of Merdyn the Wild, after which the author tells the reader, ‘And I put it to you that you’re probably wondering why there are so many thees and thous… Well, it was the old way of saying you, yours, etc. so thou better get used to it (6).
Merdyn’s punishment is to be sent to the Rivers of Purgatory for seven years but his arch enemy, Jeremiah Jerabo, has sent him instead to the Rivers of Time. At the insistence of the King’s daughter, this error must be rectified.
Chapter two finds the reader in the present day where they meet a young girl from Mountford High School. Although nothing seems to go right for her, she has inherited her father’s ‘endless positivity’ (17) and does not give up easily. Rose Falvey meets Merdyn the Wild when she runs away from a very embarrassing situation at school. He came flying out of the old well situated in a fake ornamental garden in the local shopping centre just as Rose was passing. They were destined to meet so they could help each other.
There is much to laugh at as Merdyn experiences life in the 21st Century. His main goal is to return to his own time while Rose’s goal is to become a famous singer so she can heal her own family.
This story addresses selfish behaviours, species extinctions, jealousy, bullying, and the pitfalls of becoming famous. When this happens, people do everything for you, you lose a sense of value for money and you don’t know who your true friends are (271). Surely this is being morally instructive. The story is also instructive in that it explains aspects of history and certain sayings. It is about things that happen every day even if some are seen through the eyes of a newcomer to this century. It has humour and silly words especially in the wording of the spells. It has danger and ultimately good triumphs over evil.
I believe The Wizard in my Shed, the Misadventures of MERDYN the WILD, by Simon Farnaby and illustrated by Claire Powell, fits the criteria of a good children’s book.
The Wizard in my Shed
By Simon Farnaby, illustrated by Claire Powell
Hachette Children’s Books