This is the first chapter book by Matty Long, but it features familiar characters from his very popular Super Happy Magic Forest series of picture books, and is generously illustrated in his usual joyous style, albeit in black and white.
Fans of the series will be delighted to see the likes of Hoofius the brave faun, Blossom the greedy unicorn and Trevor the witty mushroom in a feature-length outing, and new readers will be grateful for the hilarious character profiles that open the book, which outline the essential details of each of the Super Happy Heroes (such as Herbert the gnome’s unparalleled picnic-packing ability!). There’s also a handy, labelled visual guide to the forest – an essential addition to the chronicle of any epic quest.
The heroes’ adventure begins when the life-giving Rainbow Dragon is struck down with an illness that no amount of frolicking can cure, and not even The Council of Happiness knows what to do. Only the sage old Gnomedalf has any suggestions, and he sends the Super Heroes off on a mission to collect the magical ingredients needed for the cure.
Thus begins the archetypal quest story – and Matty Long plays brilliantly with the stereotype of the band of brave adventurers making their way through dangerous enchanted territory in order to acquire random, mystical objects and save the day. Every character, from leprechaun to butterfly to talking flower, is carefully crafted for maximum comedy, and every twist and turn of the journey offers the heroes an opportunity to show off their unique and seriously silly talents. There is a deliciously evil super villain in the Humongous Fungus himself, whose henchmen are an army of evil miniature spores who help him spread sickness and toxic evil. He seems utterly undefeatable and provides genuine menace and threat, which is a welcome balance against the constant presence of comedy.
Though there are well-conceived jokes, the laughs are overwhelmingly provided by Long’s cartoons and accompanying captions. It is astounding how much characterisation is created through such simple drawings. Trevor the toadstool’s facial expressions are oscar-worthy, and are achieved through nothing more than two dot eyes and a mouth!
This is a super happy magic book, which satirises the current cultural obsession with unicorns and all things enchanted, but in a friendly, frolicking manner and always, always comically. It will have young and older readers giggling all the way through.