When Lee's given funding to film exotic animals living in England, the money comes with a condition - he has to choose 5 students to help him record the documentary. Chosen from all over the world, the only thing that the students share is their passion for the natural world. As they travel around Britain, filming alien invaders, they slowly begin to bond by sharing stories of the animals that first inspired their interest. But when they arrive in Monk's Tarn, they hear stories of a monster that comes out of the lake and eats sheep and in trying to find out what the creature is, the group's hard-won camaraderie threatens to fall apart.
Judy Allen's middle grade novel is a bit of a strange beast in that it's a children's book that has characters who are all adults but who draw on their childhood memories of animals for the purposes of the story. That did make me wonder if there was enough here for the target audience to connect with.
The characters are drawn in broad brush-strokes and I got them all except Lee confused with each other during the book. I did however find Lee quite interesting - quiet, intense and irritated that he's been stuck with a group of students who he doesn't feel he needs, he does his best to teach them but would really much prefer it if they left him to get on with filming.
In terms of the stories themselves, they were okay reads but quite slight in their content and a little predictable. Children may be intrigued by the stories about tigers, seals and elephants but I'm not sure that there's enough there to keep them coming back to them. I was quite interested in the central mystery of what was responsible for the sheep attacks and wild stories in Monk's Tarn but it's addressed in a cursory way and I ultimately didn't care enough about the resolution.
All in all there's nothing bad about the book and children who like animals should find enough there to keep them entertained. Although it's an okay read, it's just not one that particularly grabbed me.