As a boisterous bambino, my brother Brett slotted neatly into the reluctant reader category.
Mum loves to regale us with the story of how bouncing Brett would only ever sit through two picture books. And even then, he mostly did so while standing on his head. The first book was aptly entitled ‘Big Mouth’ (sorry Brett, but you were super loud), and the other was ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’. Every night, while Brett jumped from the furniture and brayed like a goat, Mum would open that well-thumbed Ladybird book and read about the goats’ quest to find the sweet grass. And Brett would utterly lose the plot the moment that horrendous troll appeared.
Like so many kids, he was fascinated by the grotesque. So boy oh boy, would he have LOVED Elli Woollard and David Barrow’s version of events in their picture book – Troll Stroll.
“This is the Troll
and his big bowl of food,
the goats that he’s guzzled,
the bones that he’s chewed.”
Let’s run through the Boisterous Brett checklist…
- Gore? Check.
- Warty troll? Check.
- Slightly mortified looking goats? Check.
The first spread makes the grotesque grade. Moving on…
“And this is the Troll with his big empty bowl,
who’s fed up with goats and so goes for a stroll –
down the steep hill and then over a ridge
who stomps through the town and then stops at a bridge.”
Yep. Second spread nails it too.
Here’s the story… Troll Stroll takes all the key elements of the classic ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ but swaps out the main ingredient (mind the pun) with the bridge encounters involving kids of the human variety, because he’s bored with eating kids of the goat variety. Hence, the troll takes a stroll.
This picture book has it all.
Firstly there’s Elli’s bounding rhyme and vibrant storytelling, as she packs in plenty of toe curling guzzles, gollops and gobblesome word choices as well as a rather fantastic description of a “juicy boy on a bike”. Ha! A reference to kids in the car being meals on wheels and kids in a bus being “flavoured with school” are equally brilliant.
Plus, there’s the addition of wheels. And what story isn’t improved by the addition of a bike, car, school bus and (spoiler alert) digger!
David Barrow’s beautifully mottled watercolours paint a beatific village scene with neatly ploughed fields, bubbling stream and slate roofs. A scene marred only by the big blue blotchy brute that is troll. I adore the little details, like troll’s offhand tossing of the bowl as he stomps off into town. And ALL of his many faces: his thinking face; bridge peeking face; licking lips face; and “hurrah I’m gonna gobble a digger full of kids” face.
This book’s supremely slobbersome!