Axel Scheffler (illus.) - The Gloomster (2 stars)

Axel Scheffler (illus.) - The Gloomster

Julia Donaldson's favoured illustrator fails to justify the asking price of this slim poetry adap


Any parents out there picking up this book would be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of Gruffalo sequel. Only this time, the central character is seeking therapy rather than a mouse. Translated by children’s author Julia Donaldson, and illustrated by her long-time side-kick Axel Scheffler, The Gloomster looks to all intents and purposes like a kids book. Until, that is, you clock the pallid, morose-looking chap on the cover; the eponymous misery guts whose role in life is most certainly not entertaining children.

This short tale of unmitigated sadness started life as a poem by 19th century German writer Ludwig Bechstein, and should probably have stayed that way. As always, Donaldson’s rhymes are witty and pleasing, while Scheffler’s colourful illustrations mix humour with pathos. But short of the odd metaphor that gets you pondering (‘nothing is right for me, turn out the light for me’ says Herr Gloomster, lying in his bed – ‘Why must it follow me? Why can’t it let me be?’ he asks his shadow), there’s little in this slimmest of verses to merit the £9.99 cover price.

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