A rib-tickling, larger-than-life pirate adventure for 7 to 11 year olds, in an enjoyable easy-to-read comic book form. Adapted from the acclaimed novel.
Anna Fienberg is a wonderful storyteller who weaves quirky humour and great charm into her stories, which are loved by both children and adults. She is the author of many popular and award-winning books including the much-loved Tashi series (with Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble). Horrendo's Curse was originally published as a novel, and was an Honour Book in the Australian Children's Book Council awards.
Remy Simard is a cartoonist, commercial artist, and award-winning author and illustrator. His work has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, and he has also written and illustrated many children's books, including Monsieur Noir et Blanc and Le Pere Noel a une Crevaison, finalists in Canada's Governor General's Award. He lives in Montreal, Quebec.
The kids at my school are going to be rapt! They love everything that Anna Fienberg writes, and the original edition of Horrendo's Curse illustrated by Kim Gamble has been a favourite for a long time, but this graphic novel version of it will go down a treat. Not just with reluctant readers, but also with readers who like reading but whose digital experiences make them less willing to engage with static print. These readers crave bright colours and jazzy graphics and I have no doubt that this edition will lure them in with its appealing comic-book format. It's slightly bigger than the usual 'chapter book' format (15 x 23cm) and every page is in full colour with fabulous art work by Rémy Simard telling the story. (The size is important. The last time I tried to read an (adult) graphic novel the print was just too small for me to read.)
Horrendo's Curse is a classic tale of The Kid Who Doesn't Fit In. Every year the pirates come to town to enslave the twelve-year-olds so the boys need to be tough. But on the day he was born Horrendo was cursed by a wise witch so that he was never to be able to swear, curse, hurt or maim anyone. Once aboard the pirate ship his kind heart and gentle ways exasperate the captain, but he wins the friendship of the crew with his culinary talent and his expertise in nursing wounds, so it's not hard to guess how it all ends up.
Horrendo's Curse is deliberately 'naughty'. There is fighting and cursing and the humour is gross. The parents are a lily-livered bunch of no-hopers who don't do anything to stop their children being kidnapped, and some of the characters get eaten by sharks. Children reading this are from the age group that enjoys being a little bit frightened and a little bit silly, and they will probably enjoy it more if they think that adults will disapprove or be shocked.
But adults with a sense of humour will need to pretend to be shocked by the cursing. Here are some examples:
I'm gonna grill your gizzards in oil!'
'You grog-faced villain!'
'You're a cockroach cavorting in compost!'
School libraries will want to add this title to the graphic novels collection, and I think I might try asking students to review it, using a similar comic book format to do it.
Horrendo's Curse was shortlisted for the 2005 Young Readers' Best Book Awards (YABBBA) in the Fiction for Younger Readers category, and in 2004 for the KOALAS (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) and the YABBAs (Young Australians Best Book Award - Children's Choice in the Younger Readers category.
Lisa Hill, Mossgiel Park Primary School
Most mothers, including myself, are delighted when their sons have lovely manners, speaking politely to all they meet, using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and refraining from insults and curses. Most mothers…but not Horrendo’s. For Horrendo’s mother, his beautiful manners were a cause of great concern. Nice manners were indeed a curse in a village which prepared all their children for the annual arrival of the pirates, who took all the 12 year old boys as slaves aboard their ship. The boys were trained in various skills including hiding, sword fighting, jumping on pirates (from great heights) and making rude remarks. It did not make any difference, the pirates came anyway.
In this delightful graphic novel adaption of Anna Fienberg’s beloved story, our young hero must unite his classmates together to outwit the pirates and escape, using just his delicious lobster mornay and his impeccable manners in a dastardly deviant plot. If you adored the Tashi series, were beside yourself over Louis Beside Himself, and thought Number 8 was great, a dynamic, full colour graphic version of Horrendo’s Curse will be as a sweet sound to your ears. Middle primary students in particular will love watching Horrendo defeat the bad guys, win the day…oh, and get the girl! Even the most resistant of reluctant readers will not be able to put this read down, not be able to forgo adding a few extra colourful adjectives to their vocabulary (try ‘slimy smear of cockroach pus’, ‘blasted sneaking vipers’ or ‘bottom-dwelling swill-suckers’ for size).
Jo McDougall, Geelong, VIC
Allen & Unwin should be congratulated for merging great literature for pre-teens and early teen readers with the graphic novel format that is becoming increasingly more popular and accessible. Horrendo’s Curse is a prime example and more well established titles should follow suit. Horrendo is a 12 year old boy who lives on an island and, like all the boys in his village who reach this auspicious age, is taken away by pirates to work a life of servitude. To compensate for this fate, schooling for these boys is totally focussed on dealing with pirates, including lessons on petrifying pets, hiding and rude remarks. This last subject in particular, is a difficult one for Horrendo since he is unable to swear and be impolite due to a witch’s curse being placed on him at birth. What follows is a swash-buckling adventure that shows the power of words and how good behaviour can bring great rewards.
Young readers should find the graphic style appealing with its cartoon-like drawings and bright colours and all dialogue is presented clearly in speech bubbles. As a teaching tool this graphic novel version could be used alongside the classic novel for a study of compare and contrast in English lessons. Also, students can be encouraged to look for visual storylines that feature in the book, separate from the dialogue presented. Do these visual stories appear in the novel?
In HSIE, the book can serve as a great introduction to the history and culture of Pirates. Strong values are presented throughout the book and Horrendo’s behaviour can serve as an example of friendship, respect and courtesy.
Overall, the graphic novel is an entertaining read for girls and boys in the 10 to 15 age group, who aren’t ready or willing to read books dealing with dark issues and supernatural themes. A highly welcomed addition to the graphic novel library and hopefully similar books will follow.
Beth Ashworth, Librarian, Kerikeri, NZ
As a graphic novel, this is an exciting version of the previously published Horrendo’s Curse. The story goes that the pirates come every year to take away all the twelve year old boys to live among them in their cutthroat world. The boys can’t avoid their fate and school is designed to give them the best chance at survival with lessons entitled- Rude Remarks, Hiding, Sword Fighting, etc.
Horrendo approaches his twelfth birthday with trepidation, as he has been cursed. Gretel the witch, fed up with the village and its rudeness, declares the next child born will be unable to curse, swear, hurt or maim. Horrendo is that child and grows up a polite young man with a talent for cookery and cunning plans. The story unfolds as Horrendo is taking away to battle pirates and his curse.
As a teacher of a class of Year 4 boys I was drawn to this title. I originally planned to read it as a class novel/picture book, but due to the beautiful illustration, I quickly had to abandon that plan as the boys all wanted to see every picture. The boys then read it as an individual reader with each child leaving a one line review.
“Good pictures, clear story line.”
“Interesting, great illustrations.”
There were many other comments along this line. The graphic novel is increasingly becoming a great literacy format for the reluctant readers. Interestingly the two boys, who had read the book before as a tradition novel, preferred that over this comic style. As I lost my chance to read it in the class, I took it home to read to my six year old as a bedtime book. He loved the bright illustrations and the fact it was a “chapter book.” He summed up the whole thing with the comment, “Can we have the next one?”
Martin Charlwood, Prince Alfred College, SA
Horrendo's Curse is a recent graphic novel adaptation of Anna Fienberg's story of the same title.
Horrendo knows that he, along with the other 12 year old boys from his village, will be kidnapped and put to work by pirates. But Horrendo is a bit different: he's been cursed by a witch to only say polite words, show manners and never be violent. Horrendo is intelligent but he may not fit in with a shipload of rough, rude pirates. When the pirates catch him, he makes them French toast and soup and is polite. The pirate captain can't understand this in the slightest, so this causes conflict. A cunning escape plan is hatched and the boys’ determination to go home is rewarded, but not without courtesy, consideration and teamwork; a good lesson for our time.
The story would appeal to reluctant readers especially boys aged eight to twelve, and includes lots of comedic threats, violence, and aggression.
There is a vague attempt at humour but I’m not sure that this book has much adult-appeal. The illustrations are bright, vibrant and easy on the eye. The spacing of the text bubbles makes the narrative easy to follow.
Claire Cheeseman, Laingholm Primary
How wonderful to see such a popular children’s title released as a graphic novel! Whether readers are familiar with the original novel or not does not matter, as this comic style adaptation stands firmly on its own merits. Perfect for young readers (particularly boys) aged 7+, it’s full of pirate curses (‘Surrender now, you bilious bilge rats’) that will delight and engage those who don’t like wading through lots of extraneous text; it’s strictly dialogue in this book.
The illustrations are colourful and engaging, though maybe not suited to sensitive readers: there are depictions of blood and a lopped off finger and earlobe as well a frame with shark fins surrounding blood in the water after a pirate has jumped into the sea. But none of it is overdone, and all is within context: this is a book about pirates after all.
It would be a fun class exercise to give students a few photocopied pages with the text ‘whited out’ for them to fill in the speech bubbles. Either way, this is sure to be a book that is constantly on loan from the school library. My seven-year-old is reading it for the third time!
Kate Justelius-Wright, casual primary teacher, NSW
I was meant to write this review two weeks ago, but every time I sat down to write it, I would find the book had disappeared. My children kept vanishing with the book, reading it over and over and quoting sections of the dialogue. My attempts to steal it back were only marginally successful – every time it made its way back to my desk, it would vanish again almost immediately.
So, to the review. Horrendo’s Curse is a beautiful graphic novel about a boy who cannot curse. Horrendo is always polite, and everyone else is not. This is a book about children, pirates, cursing, a gruesome death and young love. It has all the ingredients which make my 11 year old daughter and 9 year old son enjoy a book. It has colourful and exciting illustrations, an exciting story, and fun characters.
Using the wonderful novel by Anna Feinberg, which is worth reading because it is a lovely story about a boy who just doesn’t fit in, the bright colours and clean graphics of this graphic novel edition will be thoroughly enjoyed by children, both in the classroom and at home.
As a teacher, I can see how this book will especially appeal to some of the reluctant readers in my classes. Horrendo’s Curse draws on the ideas behind many fairy stories, relying in resourceful children, quests and lucky coincidence. It’s a lot of fun and certainly works well for the 8 to 12 year old age group.
It is certainly easy to read, but also bears re-reading. Both my young readers have since attempted to write their own graphic novels, and the book is prefect to be used this way in a classroom. After encouraging readers to read the book, it would be easy to ask a class to create their own narrative and turn it into a graphic novel. It can also be used to take the next step, of turning the narrative into a storyboard for a film.
Using the book in this way will encourage learners to connect with their visual and spatial learning and reward creativity. Older readers will connect with the story in a more sophisticated way than younger readers, and the deceptively simple words and story are fun to share with children.
However, I suggest that if you have more than one child in your household, you buy each of them a copy – otherwise yours will disappear!
This is a pirate story with plenty of twists. It is told in cartoon form which will appeal to boys (and girls) aged 10 to 12. It is illustrated by Remy Simard. Horrendo is the hero who has been cursed to speak well and say nice things to people while all around him the pirates are cursing.
Horrendo's mates, all 12 years old, join him on his pirate journey as slaves. Horrendo cannot help himself and cooks up tasty meals. Escaping at last, they find some treasure but the pirates catch up with them and want a share. An entertaining read which could be used to write fantasy stories and explore real pirates like those who explored our coast.
Michael P Mardel