The Beast and the Bethany

S. & S./Aladdin. (Beast and the Bethany: Bk. 1). Dec. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534478893.
Gr 3-6–At 511 years old, Ebenezer Tweezer has a wonderful life, despite doing nothing to deserve it. Every year he receives an anti-aging potion from a beast, and all he has to do in return is feed the beast whatever it wants—from statues to house cats to a rare purple-breasted parrot. But Ebenezer gets quite a shock when the beast decides what he really wants to try is a human child. Ebenezer adopts the obnoxious orphan Bethany, thinking she’ll be easy to sacrifice. But much to their mutual surprise, the two have a lot to learn from each other. This book is delightful from the first sentence, reminiscent of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman at their cleverest. Ebenezer and Bethany are excellent foils, each despicable in their own way while slowly drawing out the other’s best qualities. The story is at turns funny, shocking, and redemptive, and flows well through each twist. Side characters, while not taking up much scene time, are well developed and add depth. Follath’s black-and-white illustrations emphasize the whimsical, and sometimes dark feel of the book. The ending, however, may give readers pause: While adding a darker tone, it feels out-of-place and opposes the hard-won redemption from the previous chapter.
VERDICT This book will appeal to readers because of its clever humor, despicable characters, and shocking reveals. It will fit nicely alongside zanier books like those from Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk, and Lois Lowry’s “The Willoughbys” series.

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