The Beast and the Bethany
by Jack Meggitt-Phillips
illust. by Isabelle Follath
Recommended Ages: 10+
At first appalled, Ebenezer is persuaded to go looking for a child to feed to the Beast when the Beast threatens to cut off his annual supply of elixir. So, he tries a variety of daft schemes to capture a child, before finally visiting the local orphanage and simply adopting one. The first sign that he might be starting to have qualms comes when he deliberately chooses the most beastly child at Miss Fizzlewick's Institute for Gentlemanly Boys and Ladylike Ladies, a bullying brat named Bethany. And then, despite Bethany's behavior driving him batty, Ebenezer starts to feel even worse about the deal. By the end of a week of fattening her up for the Beast's belly, Ebenezer and Bethany have become friends and he simply can't give her to him. But there's still the prospect of a death from old age before him, and a Beast upstairs who won't take "no" sitting down.
This is a heartwarming and hilarious book that will tickle readers in many of the same places as Roald Dahl's books for children. The growing bond between the villainous Ebenezer and the snotty Bethany is a pleasant surprise, and the Beast's evil cunning sends chills down the spine. Supporting characters, including a couple who go down the Beast's throat, add to the entertainment with their quirks or charms, leaving you more or less sorry they got eaten (more in one case, less in the other). And despite a climax that is well worth the buildup, the story ends in a way that leaves ample room for a sequel.
Jack Meggitt-Phillips is an English author, playright and podcaster whose only other book that I know of is the sequel to this, Revenge of the Beast. Isabelle Follath is a Swiss artist who has illustrated a number of children's books.