Measle and the Wrathmonk
By Ian Ogilvy
Illustrated by Chris Mould
HarperCollins (US) Oxford Press (UK), 2004
Re-released as The Train Set of Terror! in 2010.
Wrathmonk is a young adult children's fantasy novel, and is the first in the Measle series. This is also Ian Ogilvy's first children's novel, although he has written screenplays previously and a couple of novels for adults that received very little attention (you might also recognize the name from his rather successful acting career). Wrathmonk is probably most appropriate for ages 8-12.
10-year-old Measle Stubbs is an orphan living with his horrible guardian, Basil Tramplebone. Measle's life is rather unhappy and spartan, and he never leaves the cold damp house, where they eat cold, damp food, and wear cold damp clothes, which were apparently left by previous tenants. There is one bright spot in this existence, and that is Basil's elaborate train set which he keeps locked in the attic. Measle is sometimes allowed to watch while Basil play with the train set. If he's lucky.
One day Measle tricks Basil into leaving the house, telling him that the bank called about some "extra money". The plan works, and Measle is able to sneak into the attic and play with the train... until Basil comes back and catches him in the act. Against all odds, Basil turns out to be an evil wizard (a wrathmonk, to be exact), and shrinks Measle down so that he can be part of the model train's tableau. As Measle explores the miniature town and surrounding 'woods', he discovers that he is not the only human to be shrunk down and used as a model... He and the other victims (one of who happens to be a wrathmonkologist) put together a plan to allow them to escape.
This is a fun and quick-moving book, and is proving to be quite popular. It is often a bit predictable; it is somewhat silly (in a good way), but not particularly creative. Obviously, is a book about a mistreated orphan who discovers that magic is real and who works to vanquish the evil magician... and there's not a lot more to it than that, other than an interesting setting and an unusually diverse set of characters (most of the other victims are adults, which is unusual in a children's book). Overall, this is a good children's book, but would not make it onto my recommended reading list.
The second book in the series is Measle and the Dragodon.
AR reading level: 5.6