Jeff Kinney, Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories, March 2021, Penguin Random House Australia, 224 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781761043956
If you like stories about skeletons and zombies and human heads, then crawl under the covers and turn the page.
Jeff Kinney, one of the Top 10 bestselling authors of all time, has done it again! This installment is the third in the Rowley Jefferson series and is set to excite fans aged 7 -12 years.
Equipped with a warning to the reader and an “I told you so” to finish it off, the collection of 14 short stories is quirky and a little gruesome. Werewolves, headless bodies and bodiless heads, vampires, ghosts, and zombies are paired with mythical Pharaohs and unsuspecting innocents.
In true Kinney style, the stories have a life lesson or message of inspiration. The opening story is a great example. Poor Rowan, who suddenly begins sprouting hair all over his body, is fearful of having that awkward ‘talk’ with his parents about ‘the change’. But that is not to be, instead, Rowan is told he is a werewolf and must hide the fact from everyone because ignorant people don’t like anyone who is different. Rowan doesn’t want any of that nonsense. He will be who he is and everyone else will just have to deal with it! A strong and valuable lesson for anyone who is a little different.
But my personal favourite is The Medicine Cabinet where curiosity sets Ryan on a sneaky path past his sleeping parents to the forbidden contents of the medicine cabinet. With nothing too exciting on offer, he dabs some makeup on and later finds himself anti-aging! He is becoming younger by the second! His parents who have been desperately hiding the effects of their age – both of whom have tipped the centenary, have used the magic makeup for years. This is of course a comment on society’s obsession with reversing the effects of aging. Ryan declares that he loves them the way they are, even if people “looked at them a little funny” from time to time.
The stories are short, easy reads with Kinney’s clearly identifiable illustrations to support the content. It is easy to see why his fan base just can’t get enough of Rowley Jefferson and his adventures.
Reviewed by Katie Mineeff