In this comedy drama for children, a young boy and his brother suffer a family tragedy that means they have to move to live with their old Uncle Hamish in the remote Loch Lochy in Scotland.
Benji McLaughlin is a positive and creative soul who, even when faced with the most tragic of circumstances, searches for opportunity and silver linings. His brother Stanley is less optimistic and is struggling to come to terms with their new parenting set-up. Uncle Hamish clearly means well but the porridge is awful and the holiday cottages he owns are well past their best.
In fact, Uncle Hamish’s Loch Lochy resort is in big trouble and Benji realises that it will take a monster-sized miracle to save their new home. Luckily, Benji is full of ideas for how he can help, and so is his new local friend, Murdy. With the help of Uncle Hamish’s dog (Mr Dog) they begin their hunt for the Loch Lochy monster… and when this doesn’t work, they set about making one!
Benji’s enthusiasm is infectious and his efforts to find fame for Loch Lochy lead to a number of trademark comedy scenes that will feel familiar to fans of Pearson’s previous novels. Murdy and Benji are determined to stop the mean-spirited neighbour, McGavin, from getting his hands on the Loch Lochy resort. To this end, they embrace all sorts of chaos, including chucking old bath tubs (and themselves!) into the loch.
The true existence of the Loch Lochy Monster is a mystery but, certainly, Benji feels its presence: he is haunted by the notion of a great heavy darkness rising from the loch. Of course, cynical Stanley won’t believe him, and responds to Benji’s excitement with disdain. This troubled relationship between the brothers, as they come to terms with the disappearance of their parents, is the most effective aspect of the book. Pearson shows what the impact of grief and sadness can be and her gentle, charming characters and vast, scenic location illustrate how much kindness and time can help.
At 350 pages, the story feels a little long at times: there is an awful lot of scheming and planning before the comedy arrives with the making of the monster. The story has a calm and warm-hearted atmosphere and will be enjoyed most by readers who are willing to put the silliness to one side and explore its themes of family, grief and healing.