The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm

Karen Foxlee, illustrated by Freda Chiu

This fabulous book follows Mary-Kate Martin, a nervous yet sharply dressed young girl, who finds herself caught up in a world of mystery and monsters, quite against her will!

With her grandma away on a bus tour, Mary-Kate has no choice but to go along with her intrepid archaeologist mother to the sleepy town of Woolington, where bones have been found in a historic well. There are plans for the town to be completely transformed with a new shopping centre and car park, which would mean filling in the well, but the handful of residents that remain are not best pleased! Not only would the shopping centre push even more people away from the town, but there are rumours and rumblings that perhaps there is something more sinister living below the well… a monster. Mary-Kate must face her fears (of which she has many, in fact, she has a list of exactly all the things that make her nervous) and get to the bottom of the monstrous mystery before the well is filled in for good!

This story is a brilliant and thoughtful handling of a neurodiverse main character, with Mary-Kate’s fear of small talk, and dislike of particular colours and textures all leading to a compulsive need to keep her lucky items nearby. Mary-Kate makes for a likeable and brave young protagonist, who is challenged throughout the book to come to terms with her fears, and make new friends in whom she can find comfort and strength. At times, the story is quite nerve-wracking and rather spooky, and any young reader might feel nervous on Mary-Kate’s behalf, but we cheer her on to be brave and do what is right for the residents of Woolington, and for her to grow and learn as a person.

Well written, with rich descriptions, this novel plays into mystery tropes that are familiar to the adult reader, but with a supporting cast of characters and plenty of twists and turns that ensure the story is refreshing and enticing. The visual descriptions of places and people are excellent (and at times gruesome) and these are only enhanced by Freda Chiu’s lively, charcoal-esque illustrations.

An excellent book for nervous young readers facing change in their lives, for mystery fans, or for readers looking to take their first steps into the adventure and mystery genres.

Published by Pushkin Press.

Reviewed by Veronica Quinn