The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips

‘Ebenezer Tweezer was a terrible man with a wonderful life’

From this first line Jack Meggitt-Phillips had me hook, line and sinker. I knew straight away that I was going to love this book! I was pretty convinced I would love it just from the amazing cover. Those sharp, dripping teeth and the surly looking girl on the cover really draw you in and make you curious about what the book is about. This is one of my top middle grade books of 2020.

Ebenezer Tweezer is 511 years old but he doesn’t look a day over 20. His youthful good looks come courtesy of the beast that he keeps in the attic of his fifteen-storey home. As long as he feeds this grotesque beast he will continue to get a special formula that keeps him from ageing. Ebenezer feeds the beast all manner of things and the beast vomits out items in return. Birds and even Ebenezer’s favourite cat have been devoured by the beast. So when the beast requests to eat a child Ebenezer must find one for it. Ebenezer decides that the beast needs to eat a horrible child, one that really deserves to be eaten. Along comes Bethany. However Bethany is not quite what he expected, and soon Ebenezer starts to have second thoughts. The beast demands to be fed and he wants to eat Bethany, whether she likes it or not.

The Beast and the Bethany is a deliciously dark tale that made me chuckle with glee. It is a story that is a bucketload of fun but also has a whole lot of heart. I loved the gory details but I also loved seeing how Ebenezer and Bethany’s relationship developed throughout the story. I found myself smiling every time I read more and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Everything about the story is brilliant, from the storytelling and dialogue to the characters.

I love both Bethany and Ebenezer. Bethany has a surly, confronting exterior but she’s an orphan who’s had a pretty rubbish life. She treats others as the world has treated her. Ebenezer has led a long, privileged life, with all of the money and things he could want, but he’s also trapped serving a horrible beast. Bethany is the horrible child that Ebenezer needs to keep the beast satisfied and Ebenezer is a way out of the orphanage for Bethany (but she’s still not happy about it). This is certainly not rich-man-adopts-adorable-orphan like Annie, but their relationship is kind of cute. The beast himself is quite entertaining and some of its lines made me laugh, especially when its describing the type of child it wants to eat.

Isabelle Follath’s illustrations are the perfect match for Jack’s story. She perfectly captures Ebenezer and Bethany’s personalities and the tone of the story. I love the way that she has captured Ebenezer ageing throughout the story. The cover, designed by Matt Jones, is my favourite cover of 2020. I love the way that the beast’s teeth shine, as well as the globs of drool that drip out of its mouth. You can tell from looking at Bethany on the front cover that she is not just going to sit back and get eaten.

The Beast and the Bethany would be an amazing read aloud for Years 5-8 and a great class set for the same level. I would love to have the chance to read it aloud as the language is so rich and the characters have such clear voices in my head. It would be a fantastic audiobook. I was very excited to see that there is a sequel coming next year and I can’t wait to read it.

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