Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

Following Frankenstein by Catherine Bruton

This book comes just in time for my twins’ exploration of Gothic Literature in their Year 7 English lessons. Our house has been full of discussions about monsters and darkness, melancholy and death. Following Frankenstein gives a whole new perspective on a classic story.

Maggie has always known the tale of the desperate creator and his monster. Her father’s obsession with finding the creature has utterly consumed him, leaving Maggie lonely in the care of her aunt. When her aunt dies, a strange man appears at the funeral. Her father’s ambition rears its ugly head once more as he talks about a quest that will bring great value to science and human civilisation. He must find the monster if he is ever going to be happy. The mysterious Count Forenza will sponsor the mission in return for ownership of everything Maggie’s father discovers.

Two classic stories collide as her father sets off for the Arctic in a ship named “Moby Dick” commanded by a Captain Ishmael.  Maggie becomes a stow away in order to try to protect her father and be a part of whatever future he has in store. The crew fails at finding the monster they seek but do manage to capture its son – Kata. Is he a boy with no soul or is he the boy with the rainbow soul as the Inuit people say?

The crew takes Kata to New York where they rejoin Count Forenza and his Circus of Curiosities. The truth is revealed – this has not been about science and discovery but about ownership, power and money.

So many questions are raised for readers. Most significantly, who is the real monster in the story? The horrors of how the people in the circus are treated reveals not only a lack of acceptance and respect but an exploitation of those who are different in some way. Following themes of The Greatest Showman, Catherine Bruton explores how society treats difference, disability and neurodiversity. Issues such as mental illness, family breakdown and young carers are explored in a creative way. From the underground railroad to the disappearance of native cultures, the will of those in power over those who seek to be equal is navigated in a manner that will make readers think deeply about these issues.

This book has so much more to it than I expected. It would be an incredible story to explore with Year 6 or Year 7 children – particularly after they have studied the Gothic genre and the original (or abridged) Frankenstein story. The layers upon layers of meaning and key messages are sure to provide important topics of discussion not only in English but in PSHE lessons and beyond.

Thank you to Nosy Crow for this thought-provoking book!

Click on the cover below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.

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