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BOOK REVIEW: Stitch Head by Guy Bass

BOOK REVIEW: Stitch Head by Guy Bass

Stripes
January 2017
Paperback, $14.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Middle Grade

8/10

In the maze-like dungeons of Castle Grotteskew, the frightfully insane Professor Erasmus conducts his bizarre experiments on living things. His very first creation has been long forgotten – a small, almost-human creature, known only as Stitch Head. Poor Stitch Head has spent years vying for attention amongst a menagerie of freakish monsters. When a travelling circus ringmaster, Fulbert Freakfinder, promises to make him a star, Stitch Head wonders whether there is another life for him. But first he has to catch the professor’s latest creation – a monstrous three-armed creature that’s just smashed its way to freedom . . . 

 

This is such a cute and fun little story with a lot of heart in which normal is challenged. We do see a few “normal” people right at the start of the story, but everyone else is strange in one way or another, be they creations of a mad professor:

Over the years, Stitch Head had witnessed the “birth” of dozens of the professor’s creations. And with each one, he was reminded how, once, he was the most important creation in the professor’s life… that he and the professor had promised to be friends for the rest of their days.
But that was an almost-lifetime ago. Now, Stitch Head was long forgotten.

The hallway seemed to writhe and shift as if it were alive. Slowly, more bizarre beasts began to emerge from the shadows. One after the other they came – each more impossible and terrifying than the last. Wherever Stitch Head and the Creature looked, there were monsters of every description – a six-armed slug, a giant fish with clockwork feet, a steam-powered skull… Monsters, creatures, mad things!

The mad professor, himself:

According to popular opinion, Mad Professor Erasmus was the maddest mad professor of all. He spent day and night in his laboratory, breathing life (or something like it) into any number of brain-meltingly strange creatures: steam-powered skulls, dog-faced cats, headless horses, flesh-eating chairs, frog-children – that sort of thing.

The man who runs the travelling show and is looking for all manner of shocking acts:

“The fact is people just aren’t so easy to scare any more. Well, I’m not givin’ up! I’ve been in the horror-show business my whole life, and I’m not about to chuck it all in!”
“You were never going to scare us, anyway,” said the girl, who hadn’t cleared off in the slightest. “This is Grubbers Nubbin, Folk round here have got plenty to be scared of already.”

Or a little girl who loves monsters:

“Lugs and mumbles, what – what is that?” asked Freakfinder.
Monsters,” whispered the girl, her dark eyes glistening like beads in the moonlight.

 

Stitch Head has spent his whole life longing for the mad professor to remember him, and throughout the story we see several instances of near-misses, and despite this constant disappointment and heartache, despite his desire to hide in the shadows because it hurts less that way, he does form friendships and builds a kind of family throughout the story. 

Stitch Head hated being outside. Every one of the thousands of stars in the sky only reminded him how small and insignificant he was. He preferred the “comfort” of his home, deep underground in the castle’s dungeons. There, in the shadows, he could almost forget that he was forgotten.

“Let’s build a FORT! No, wait, let’s catch SNAILS. No, wait, let’s pretend we’re PIRATES!”
We? Oh, I’m sorry, but I…” began Stitch Head, edging away into the shadows again. “Please just – forget you met me”
“FORGET you? How could I EVER forget you? Sure, I may only remember the last nine minutes, but I know a BESTEST friend when I see one!”

All in all this is a very cute, laugh-out-loud, and heartfelt story about not fitting in and finding a new place to belong, with other people who might not belong either.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Stitch Head by Guy Bass

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