Series: The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill #1
Source: ARC from BookCon
Published: Aug. 27, 2019
As the son of a dung farmer, Nobbin Swill spends his nights emptying the king’s latrine. Then, one night, he finds the king’s signet ring among the waste. Nobbin thinks returning it could be the making of his fortune. Instead, he finds himself setting out on a quest with the hapless crown prince, who is supposed to find out why Hansel and Gretel are missing. Can Nobbin rise above his reputation? Or will he only ever be “one of those Swills?”
Reviewing lower middle grade is always difficult for me as I am not the target audience and often do not appreciate the simplistic (usualy nonsensical) plot lines or the obvious attempts to appeal to young children. Indeed, I found myself immediately skeptical of a book where the protagonist is a crud-encrusted, smelly dung farmer who picks through feces to find treasures to keep at home. Historically based? Sure. But also a clear attempt to find fans among kids who love poop jokes and everything disgusting. Would the book hold up or was it the start of another series with a kid-friendly premise but no solid story? I wasn’t sure and, having read it, am still a little unsure.
The book cover compares the story to Shrek and, indeed, the “disgusting” hero who goes on a quest in a reimagined fairy tale land is familiar enough. But I, as an adult reader, feel like the “solve a mystery in a fractured fairy tale world” is a stale concept. “Ho hum, Hansel and Gretel are missing again,” was all I could think. And yet, for newly independent readers, this concept will likely not be stale at all. Third grade readers will probably love this book! (After all, it has poop. Lots of it.)
The plot is very simplistic, as is to be expected, with a clear and obvious villain. However, younger readers may appreciate this, either not realizing that the end game is obvious, or feeling proud of themselves for having figured it out and being “in the know” while the characters bumble about. Plenty of stuff that happens in the story is not very logical, but this will be again likely be overlooked by the target audience.
My reading experience was very much a see-saw like this, with me, the adult, feeling bored, but also recognizing that I could very well be holding a poop-tastic bestseller in my hands. After all, if Magic Kittens, Pirate Puppies, and Rainbow Fairies can fly off the shelves, why can’t a dung farmer? Maybe this is the new Captain Underpants? I still think a really great story should hold up for both adults and children. However, I also concede that children love plenty of things that many adults just don’t get–and this book is probably one of them.