*For Welsh review, see language toggle switch on top of webpage*
Illustrations: Isabelle Follath
Interest age: 7+
Reading age: 9+
Just look at the global market for beauty products, from creams to serums, from adverts to injections, and you’ll notice that we often go to a lot of effort to look our best and to keep ourselves looking nice and young. But the big question is, as you grow older, how far would you be willing to go in order to keep hold of your youthful looks?
This is one headache that Heddwyn Ploryn knows well, a bachelor who is almost about to celebrate his 512th birthday! (yes, you heard me!) This handsome, dapper chap has somehow managed the impossible - to stay looking exactly the same his whole life. But how on earth does someone so ancient stop themselves from looking like something out of The Mummy? Well, let me tell you...
A mutually-beneficial relationship
By pure chance, Heddwyn come has become acquainted with a rather unusual creature. This thing, with it’s round, bloated appearance, three black eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth has developed quite a convenient relationship with our lonely bachelor. As part of their mutually-beneficial arrangement, Heddwyn is given a magical bottle for every delicious meal he serves up for the beast. But you see, there’s a catch. (there always is!) and this may very well have something to do with the fact that this 511-year-old has skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom!
The terrible favour!
Like us, the beast soon tires of always on eating the same thing, and longs to try something new each time. Indeed, he seems to be getting greedier and more ambitious with every meal! For every time Heddwyn brings him a new, unusual meal of interesting items, he is rewarded with wonderful gifts that allow him to live a grand and lavish lifestyle.
After eating its way through any number of items, including one super rare and exotic bird, it’s no surprise that the beast wants to try something a bit more decadent for it’s next meal. This time, he wants to sample a nice plump juicy child!
Yes, Mr. Ploryn’s done terrible things during his long lifetime, but feeding a live child to the beast – that takes the biscuit! Just as he’s starting to run out of special potion, luckily for him he’s got just the thing to whet the beast’s appetite- the snottiest, grubbiest, rudest orphan you’ve come across. There’s just one teeny-tiny problem - the more time he spends with her, the more he questions his decision. Has he got what it takes to see out his fiendish plan to save his own skin?
Dorian Gray meets Little Shop of Horrors
It is easy to see where the inspiration for this book comes from. A little bit from everywhere or so it seems. There are comparisons with Audrey II, the man-eating plant from the musical Little Shop of Horrors. It also has hints of Dorian Gray, the narcissist who sold his soul so he could stay beautiful. There’s enough dark source material and inspiration here, but it’s been skilfully packaged as a children’s book full of macabre and sarcastically-dry humour, which emulates the style of the legendary Roald Dahl! Jack Meggitt-Philips, a talented new writer and scriptwriter, has created a modern classic here, I'm sure of that.
Some adaptations are better than others, and a poorly-done or rushed one can feel a bit awkward and stiff. This is not the case here. Elidir Jones has done a cracking job to be fair. The adaptation is remarkably true to the original but stands firmly on its own two feet.
I have to say, this has been one of the books I’ve enjoyed the most of late, and not only will I be telling loads of people about it, but I can’t wait to give it a trial-run with a class of children next time I’m doing some supply work. I don’t usually score books, but I’m giving this one 9.5 out of 10!
This is a highly original, imaginative book, with a good balance of mystery, gallows humour and general creepiness– an excellent addition to the ever-expanding collection of middle grade books in Welsh for the 9-11 age group. And guess what? Without giving too much away, the ending makes me think a sequel is on the cards – I hope so, anyway!
Welsh adaptation of 'The Beast and the Bethany'
A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR...
Jack Meggitt Phillips is an incredibly exciting new talent. He is an author, scriptwriter and playwright whose work has been performed at The Roundhouse and featured on Radio 4. He is scriptwriter and presenter of The History of Advertising podcast. In his mind, Jack is an enormously talented ballroom dancer, however his enthusiasm far surpasses his actual talent. Jack lives in north London where he spends most of his time drinking peculiar teas and reading PG Wodehouse novels.
Isabelle Follath is an illustrator who has worked in advertising, fashion magazines and book publishing, but her true passion lies in illustrating children's books. She also loves drinking an alarming amount of coffee, learning new crafts and looking for the perfect greenish-gold colour. Isabelle lives in Zurich, Switzerland.