cover image The Very True Legend of the Mongolian Death Worms

The Very True Legend of the Mongolian Death Worms

Sandra Fay. Holt/Godwin, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-2507-7608-2

In the Gobi Desert, shown in a front matter map, a mythic, deadly, blood-red giant worm is rumored to dwell: “Their fangs are razor sharp. They spray poisonous venom. And they shock with electricity if you dare touch them.” In this offbeat romp, the Mongolian Death Worms are presented instead as a genial, pink-colored, green venom–drooling, black-haired family: there’s mother Beverly, father Trevor, and children Neville and Kevin (the latter greets readers with a comradely “’Sup?”). Their fellow desert dwellers continue to feel apprehension about them, however—Bev’s suggestion of wearing name tags fails as an icebreaker, and a gift batch of cupcakes “does not go so well,” leaving the creatures hooves up. But a rare downpour offers a redemptive arc when the naturally buoyant worms become literal lifesavers for their neighbor. New Zealander Fay makes an impressive debut: the narrative voice is assured and beguilingly mock-dramatic, making for a well-paced readaloud; pastel-hued art, rendered in potato prints and watercolor, and subtly textured with hand-painted brushstrokes, has a bold, flattened perspective that amplifies the goofiness of every vignette. Back matter includes “The Truth Behind the Mongolian Death Worm Legend,” plus sources. Ages 4–8. Agent: Clelia Gore, Martin Literary & Media Management. (Dec.)