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Quirky twist on 'The Ugly Duckling' for mid teens
on 15 August 2013
I can't help wondering how hard it would have been for Mitch Benn to find a publisher for his first novel, "Terra", had he not already been an established radio and TV personality. This is not to suggest, of course, that the book is not indeed worthy of publication; I merely wonder how much any publisher would have been prepared to take a punt on it had the author not been a "name".
The book is a quirky children's story for adults (or possibly vice versa) which works in much the same way as a bumblebee flies -- by sheer blind ignorance of the fact that it really didn't ought to be capable of it. Mitch Benn has never been one for following rules or working within established norms, so it is perhaps not surprising that he doesn't show any sign of being constrained by any here. That said, the book follows a well-trodden morality tale pathway, tackling the issues of what it is to be a misfit and how love and trust can overcome prejudice and conditioning; in some regards it can be regarding as a modernised version of the story of the Ugly Duckling. Mitch Benn writes with an assurance and confidence which doesn't always feel well-placed but which nevertheless carries the sillier aspects of the story purely on the strength of its chutzpah.
I suspect most kids of the whackier kind will love it; many adults should also find much to laugh at within it. Fortunately, the story is probably of greatest appeal to mid-teens, well past the age of wanting to have things read to them, because heaven help any parent unfortunate enough to have to read it out loud!