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Here Be Monsters! (The Ratbridge Chronicles Series #1)
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Here Be Monsters! (The Ratbridge Chronicles Series #1)

4.7 13
by Alan Snow

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Skulduggery is afoot!

Welcome to Ratbridge. But beware — for there is skulduggery afoot. Young Arthur has fallen foul of the appalling outlaw, Snatcher, and is trapped alone in the town with every way home sealed. Meanwhile Snatcher and his men are working tirelessly in secret on a fiendish and dastardly plan to take over — and destroy


Skulduggery is afoot!

Welcome to Ratbridge. But beware — for there is skulduggery afoot. Young Arthur has fallen foul of the appalling outlaw, Snatcher, and is trapped alone in the town with every way home sealed. Meanwhile Snatcher and his men are working tirelessly in secret on a fiendish and dastardly plan to take over — and destroy — the entire town. With the help of Willbury Nibble, QC; some friendly boxtrolls and cabbageheads; Marjorie the frustrated inventor; and the rats and pirates from the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, can Arthur thwart Snatcher's evil plans — and find his way home?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Snow (How Santa Really Works) stakes a claim to Roald Dahl territory with his imaginative debut novel, the launch of the Ratbridge Chronicles. Young Arthur, equipped with a flying machine, enters the town of Ratbridge with the aim of stealing some food for himself and his grandfather, who live underground. The boy witnesses a "cheese hunt" (blocks of cheese, in this world, are "nervous beasties, that eat grass by night, in the meadows and woodlands," and easy prey for hunters), an illegal entertainment led by a top-hatted rogue called Snatcher. Arthur finds himself trapped in Ratbridge, where he falls into the caring hands of Willbury Nibble, the Queens' retired lawyer. The kind gent promises to help him locate a tunnel back home-but Snatcher has sealed all the entries. Snow uses this hero's return tale to explore his invented world, stuffed to the gills with British oddities, many of which appear in his plentiful cross-hatched pen-and-inks. His eccentric characters include beached pirates who do laundry for a living, underground-dwelling cabbageheads, and the Irregular Police Force, whose members ride bicycles with octagonal wheels ("the policemen could be heard a long way off as they let out little cries of pain at every turn of the wheels"). A larger story involves villainous Snatcher and a machine he has stolen that can shrink and enlarge living creatures. This veritable city-state of a novel is as sprawling as it is silly. Ages 8-14. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
With more than 500 black-and-white illustrations and laugh-out-loud text, Alan Snow charges into the village of Ratbridge, going forth to conquer evil with a most unlikely army. Boxtrolls, cabbageheads, a rather insecure retired lawyer, an orphan who lives beneath the streets, and other assorted underlings seem no match for the powerful Snatcher and his henchmen. The cause is desperate, and the bad guys have The Big One in their care and keeping. However, with knowledge of machinery and magnetism, the battle is not lost nor won until the final scene. This monstrous book will have fantasy buffs, anyone who loves mechanics, favors the underdog, or wants to see evil overcome, mesmerized until the last page is turned. Although satire, humor, and slapstick comedy are scattered throughout, the most powerful theme is that victory does not always come to the beautiful nor the athletic, but often rises out of cooperation and compassion for all--even the smallest--whether human, animal, or boxtroll. This title is part of "The Ratbridge Chronicles."
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Ratbridge is populated by a variety of odd creatures and equally unusual humans. "Underlings," including "boxtrolls" (shy trolls that wear boxes) and "cabbageheads" (they worship cabbage and wear them tied to their heads), live in tunnels and caves beneath the city. A boy named Arthur emerges from his subterraneous home and discovers an evil plot. The shady members of the Cheese Guild, led by an unpleasant fellow called Snatcher, are kidnapping underlings and plotting to take over the town. Arthur's allies against the Guild include underlings, a man in iron socks, and the pirates and rats who run the Nautical Laundry. There's a great deal of inspired silliness throughout, which may appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. Although the characters are not particularly well developed through words, numerous high-quality, black-and-white illustrations bring Ratbridge and its citizens to life, accentuating the comical tone and helping to pace the tale. The action is clearly played for laughs rather than suspense, as when the heroes repulse an attack on their ship by firing balls of bilge-pump gunk using catapults made of knickers. Some readers might lose interest in the sometimes-rambling series of events, but the short chapters, intriguing creatures, quirky humor, and engaging art make this book a good choice for youngsters who enjoy lengthy and lighthearted fantasy.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Interspersed with hundreds of intricately detailed vignettes, this loony escapade introduces one of the most engaging casts in years. The factory town of Ratbridge has fallen on hard times since the collapse of the autocratic Cheese Guild, but even darker days may be in store, as Snatcher, the Guild's crazed head, is creating a cheese-fed monster to avenge the loss of his fortune. The notably diverse crew opposing him includes Arthur, a foundling lad raised in the town's extensive system of tunnels; canny retired patent attorney Wilbury Nibble; and a host of uncommon helpers, from toothy but shy "boxtrolls" to a crew of human and rat pirates. The action begins as Snatcher and minions set out on an illegal cheese hunt, climaxes with an explosion that leaves an entire neighborhood coated in cheesy goo and in between delivers enough headlong, riotous adventure for an entire series. The next episode can't come too soon. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Ratbridge Chronicles Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.40(d)
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Coming Up!

It was a late Sunday evening and Ratbridge stood silver gray and silent in the moonlight. Early evening rain had washed away the cloud of smoke that normally hung over the town, and now long shadows from the factory chimneys fell across oily puddles in the empty streets. The town was at rest.

The shadows moved slowly across the lane that ran behind Fore Street, revealing a heavy iron drain cover set among the cobbles.

Then the drain cover moved. Something was pushing it up from below.

One side of the cover lifted a few inches, and from beneath it, a pair of eyes scanned the lane. The drain cover lifted further, then slid sideways. A boy's head wearing a woven helmet with nine or ten antennae rose through the hole and glanced around. The boy shut his eyes, and he listened. For a moment all was quiet; then a distant dog bark echoed off the nearby walls. Silence returned. The boy opened his eyes, reached out of the hole, and pulled himself up and out into the lane. He was dressed very oddly. In addition to the helmet, he wore a large vest knitted from soft rope, which reached the ground, and under that a short one-piece suit made from old sugar sacks. His feet were wrapped in layers of rough cloth, tied with string.

Fixed about his body by wide leather straps was a strange contraption. On his front was a wooden box with a winding handle on one side, and two brass buttons and a knob on the front. A flexible metal tube connected the box to a pair of folded wings, made from leather, wood, and brass, which were attached to his back.

The boy slid the drain cover back into place, reached inside his under-suit, and pulled out a toy figure dressed just like him. He held the doll out and spoke.

"Grandfather, I am up top. I think I'll have to go gardening tonight. It must be Sunday; everything is shut. The bins behind the inn will be empty." He looked at the doll.

There was a crackle of static, then a thin voice came from the doll. "Well, you be careful, Arthur! And remember, only take from the bigger gardens — and only then if they have plenty! There are a lot of people who can only survive by growing their own food."

Arthur smiled. He had heard this many times before. "Don't worry, Grandfather, I haven't forgotten! I'll only take what we need, and I will be careful. I'll see you as soon as I am done."

Arthur replaced the doll inside his suit, then started to wind the handle on the box. As he did, the box made a soft whirring noise. For nearly two minutes he wound, pausing occasionally when his hand started aching. Then a bell pinged from somewhere inside the box and he stopped. Arthur scanned the skyline, crouched, and then pressed one of the buttons. The wings on his back unfolded. He pressed the other button and at the same moment jumped as high as he could. Silently the wings rushed down and caught the air as he rose. At the bottom of their stroke, they folded, rose, and then beat down again. His wings were holding him in the air, a few feet above the ground.

Arthur reached for the knob and turned it just a little. As he did so, he tilted himself a little forward. He started to move. Arthur smiled....He was flying.

He moved slowly down the lane, keeping below the top of its walls. When he reached the end, he adjusted the knob again and rose up to a gap between the twin roofs of the Glue Factory. Arthur knew routes that were safe from the eyes of the townsfolk, and would keep to one of them tonight on the way to the particular garden he planned on visiting. When it was dark or there was thick smog, things were easy. But tonight was clear and the moon full. He'd been spotted twice before on nights like this, by children, from their bedroom windows. He'd got away with it so far, as nobody had believed the children when they said they had seen a fairy or flying boy, but tonight he was not going to take any chances.

Arthur reached the end of the gap between the roofs. He dipped a little and flew across a large stable yard. A horse started and whinnied as he flew over. He adjusted his wing speed and increased his height. The horse made him feel uneasy. At the far side of the yard he rose again, over a huge gate topped with spikes. He crossed a deserted alley, then moved down a narrow street flanked with the windowless backs of houses. At the far end of the street he slowed and then hovered in the air. In front of him was another high wall. Carefully he adjusted the knob and rose very gently to the point where he could just see the ground beyond the wall. It was a large vegetable garden.

Across the garden fell paths of pale light, cast from windows of the house. One of the windows was open. From it Arthur could hear raised voices and the clatter of dominoes.

That should keep them busy! he thought, scanning the garden again. Against the wall farthest from the house was a large glass lean-to.

He checked the windows of the house again, then rose over the wall and headed for the greenhouse, keeping above the beams of light. He came to rest in front of the greenhouse door.

Dark leafy forms filled the space. As Arthur entered, he recognized tomato plants climbing the strings, and cucumbers and grapes hanging from above.

He moved past all these and made his way to a tree against the far wall.

It was a tall tree with branches only at its top. Dangling from a stem below the branches was what looked like a stack of huge fat upside-down spiders. It was a large bunch of bananas. As Arthur got closer, he caught their scent. It was beautiful.

Arthur could hardly contain his delight. Bananas! He tore one from the bunch and ate it ravenously. When he finished, he looked over at the house. Nothing had changed. So, he reached inside his under-suit, pulled out a string bag, then grabbed a hold of the banana bunch and gave an eager tug. It wasn't as easy to pick the full bunch as it had been to pull off a single banana, and Arthur found he had to put his full weight on the bunch. A soft fibrous tearing sound started, but still the bunch did not come down. In desperation Arthur lifted his feet from the ground and swung his legs. All of a sudden there was a crack, and the whole bunch, along with Arthur, fell to the ground. The tree trunk sprang back up and struck the glass roof with a loud crack. The noise sounded out across the garden.

"Oi! There is something in the greenhouse," came a shout from the house.

Arthur scrambled to his feet, grabbed the string bag, and looked out through the glass. No one was in the garden yet.

He rushed to collect up as many of the bananas as possible, shoving them into the bag. Then he heard a door bang and the sound of footsteps. He ran out of the greenhouse.

Clambering toward him over the rows of vegetables was a very large lady with a very long stick. Arthur dashed over to one of the garden walls, stabbed at the buttons on the front of his box, and jumped. His wings snapped open and started to beat but not strongly enough to lift him. He landed back on the ground, his wings fluttering behind him. Arthur groaned — the bananas! He had to adjust the wings for the extra weight. He wasn't willing to put the bananas down and fly away empty-handed — they were too precious. He grabbed at the knob on the front of the box and twisted it hard. The wings immediately doubled their beating and became a blur. Just as the woman reached the spot where Arthur stood, he shot almost vertically upward. Furious, she swung her stick above her head and, before he could get out of range, landed a hard blow on his wings, sending him spinning.

"You little varmint! Come down here and give me back my bananas!" the woman cried. Arthur grasped at the top of the wall to steady himself. The stick now swished inches below his feet. He adjusted the wings quickly and made off over the wall. Shouts of anger followed him.

Arthur felt sick to the pit of his stomach. Coming up at night to collect food was always risky, and this was the closest he'd ever been to being caught. He needed somewhere quiet to rest and recover.

I wish we could live aboveground like everybody else! he thought.

Now he flew across the town by the safest route he knew — dipping between roofs, up the darkest alleys, and across deserted yards, till finally he reached the abandoned Cheese Hall. He knew he would be alone there.

The Cheese Hall had been the grandest of all the buildings in the town and was only overshadowed by a few of the factory chimneys. In former times, it had been the home of the Ratbridge Cheese Guild. But now the industry was dead, and the Guild and all its members ruined. The Hall was boarded up and deserted. Its gilded statues that once shone out across the town were blackened by the very soot that had poisoned the cheese.

Arthur landed on the bridge of the roof, and settled himself among the statues. As he sat catching his breath, it occurred to him that maybe he should inspect his wings for damage. The woman had landed a fairly heavy blow, but Arthur decided it would be too dangerous and awkward to take his wings off high up here on the roof, and besides, they seemed to be fine. Then something distracted him from his thoughts — a noise. It sounded like a mournful bleat, from somewhere below. He listened carefully, intrigued, but heard no more. When he finally felt calm again, he stowed the bananas behind one of the statues, climbed out from his hiding place, and flew up to the best observation spot in the whole town. This was the plinth on the top of the dome, which supported the weather vane and lightning conductor.

A complete panorama of the town and the surrounding countryside, broken only by the chimneystacks of the factories, was laid out before him. In the far distance he could just make out some sort of procession in the moonlight, making for the woods. It looked as though something was being chased by a group of horses.

Copyright © 2005 by Alan Snow

Chapter 2: The Hunt

Strange sounds were filtering through the woods — scrabblings, bleatings, growlings, and, strangest of all, a sound closely resembling bagpipes, or the sound bagpipes would make if they were being strangled, viciously, under a blanket. In a small moonlit clearing in the center of the woods, the sounds grew louder. Suddenly there was a frantic rustling in the bushes on one side of the clearing, and three large barrel cheeses broke from the undergrowth, running as fast as their legs would carry them. Hurtling across the clearing, bleating in panic, they disappeared into the bushes on the far side of the clearing, and for a moment all was still again.

Suddenly a new burst of rustling came from the bushes where the cheeses had emerged, along with a horrid growling noise. Then a pack of hounds burst out into the open. They were a motley bunch, all different shapes and sizes, but they all had muzzles covering their snouts, and they all shared the awful reek of sweat. The hounds ran around in circles, growling through their muzzles. One small fat animal that looked like a cross between a sausage dog and a ball of wire wool kept his nose to the ground, sniffing intently. He gave a great snort, crossed the clearing, and dived onward after the cheeses. The other hounds followed.

The weird bagpipe sound grew closer, accompanied by vaguely human cries. Then there was a louder crashing in the undergrowth, and finally the strangest creature yet arrived in the clearing. It had four skinny legs that hung from what looked like an upturned boat made from a patchwork of old sacking. At its front was a head made from an old box, and on this the features of a horse's face were crudely drawn. A large, angry man rode high on its back.

"Which way did they go?" the man screamed.

An arm emerged from the sacking and pointed across the clearing. The rider took his horn (made from some part of a camel) and blew, filling the clearing with the horrible bagpipe-like sound. Then he raised the horn high in the air and brought it down hard on his steed.

"Hummgggiff Gummmminn Hoofff!" came muffled cries of pain from below.

The creature started to move in a wobbly line across the clearing, picking up speed as the rider beat it harder. More men on these strange creatures arrived in the clearing, following the sound of the horn. They were just in time to catch the lead rider disappearing. They, too, beat their mounts. As they did, shouts of "Tallyho!" and "Gee-up!" could be heard over the cries from the beasts below.

The front legs of the last of these creatures came to a sudden halt. However, the back legs kept moving and, inevitably, caught up with the front ones. There was an Ooof! and a sweaty, red face emerged from the front of the creature. The head looked up at the rider and spoke.

"That's it, Trout! I have had enough! I want a go on top."

"But I only got a turn since the start of the woods, and you had a long go across the fields," moaned the rider. Another face now emerged from the back end of the creature and joined in.

"Yes! And Gristle, you tried to make us jump that gate!"

"Well, I'm not going on, and I'll blame you two if we get in trouble for getting left behind," said the face at the front.

"All right then!" the rider said with a pout.

He jumped down, and as he took off his jacket and top hat, the creature's body lifted to reveal two men underneath. The man at the front unstrapped himself, and the rider took his place.

The body lowered itself, and the new rider put on the jacket and hat and climbed with some difficulty into the saddle.

"Don't you dare try going through the stream," the back end of the creature demanded.

"All right, but make sure we catch up," said the new rider. "You know the rules about being last!"

He then grabbed a large twig from an overhanging branch, snapped it off, and belted the back end of his mount. With a short scream and some cursing, the creature set off. Quiet returned to the clearing.

The woods now disgorged a weird procession. First the cheeses, then after a few moments the hounds, followed by the huntsmen. Baying filled the night air as the hounds got a clear sight of their quarry. Fear drove the cheeses faster. The hounds gained on them, and as they did, the cheeses' bleating became ever more mournful.

Then the first of the cheese-hounds struck. One of the smaller cheeses was trailing a few yards behind the rest. It was an easy target. In one leap, the hound landed its front paws on the cheese. Whimpering and bleating, the cheese struggled to get free, but it was no good. Its legs buckled, and it collapsed on the grass. The dog rolled the cheese onto its side with its snout and held it down firmly with his paws. Most of the other hounds raced after the other fleeing cheeses, but a few dogs paused long enough to worry the trapped cheese, growling threateningly. As they did so, the leader of the hunt arrived on his mount and clonked it mercilessly with his horn.

"Back to the chase, you lazy dairy-pugs!" he yelled. "Gherkin! Deal with this 'ere cheese!"

"Yes, Master!" replied a stubby rider close behind. He slowed his mount, stopped close to the cheese, and climbed down. Throwing a piece of dried bread to the ground to distract the hound, Gherkin put a boot on the cheese to keep it pinned down, then took some string from his pocket and tied it firmly to the cheese's ankle. Keeping a tight hold on the string, Gherkin climbed back onto his mount.

"Right. My boys, it's a gentle ride home for us," said Gherkin, stirring his mount back toward the town.

"It might be a gentle ride home for you, Gherkin, but it's a damnable long walk for us!" a muffled voice grunted from under the saddle. Still, off they set with the cheese in tow. The hunt was now in the distance, picking off the rest of the cheeses. Their mournful cries were replaced by a resigned silence.

Copyright © 2005 by Alan Snow

Chapter 3: From On High

Arthur watched it all from his perch on top of the Cheese Hall. The procession drew closer to Ratbridge, and now he could make out most of the creatures involved. It slowly dawned on him what was happening. It was a cheese hunt!

He grabbed his doll from under his suit and raised it to his mouth.

"Grandfather! Grandfather! It's Arthur. Can you hear me?" There was a crackling and his grandfather replied.

"Yes, Arthur, I can hear you. What's happening?"

"I think I see a cheese hunt!"

There was a pause; then Grandfather spoke again. "Are you absolutely sure? Cheese hunting? Where are you?"

"I am sitting on top of the Cheese Hall. I am..." — Arthur decided to gloss over earlier events — "...having a break. I can see the whole thing. Riders and hounds chasing and catching cheeses."

"But they can't! It's cruel and it's illegal!" Grandfather sputtered. "Are you sure there are riders on horses?"

"Yes, Grandfather. Why?"

"Because all the cheese-hunting horses were sold off to the Glue Factory after the Great Cheese Crash."

"Well, they do seem to be riding horses...but there's something rather odd about them," Arthur told him.

"What is it?"

"They're very ungainly and somewhat oddly shaped. I can see that even from here. Who do you think is doing the hunting?"

"I am not sure," said Grandfather. "Where are they now?"

"They are approaching the West Gate."

"Well, they must be from the town then. If we could find out who was responsible, perhaps we could do something to put a stop to it. Do you think you could have a closer look without being seen?"

"Yes, I think so," Arthur said, starting to feel excited.

"Well, keep up on the roofs, and see if you can follow them." Grandfather paused. "But...be very careful!"

"Don't worry; I will be."

"And call me if you find out anything."

"All right. I'll speak to you later. And, Grandfather...I've got some bananas."

"Err...well...err...I rather like bananas...." Grandfather's voice trailed off.

Arthur put the doll away and wound his wings again. Here at last was a chance for some real adventure.

Copyright © 2005 by Alan Snow

Meet the Author

Alan Snow is a well-known author and illustrator of children’s books and has also worked in many fields of design and animation. He has written two novels, Here Be Monsters! and Worse Things Happen at Sea!, both set in the wonderfully weird world of Ratbridge. He lives in Bath, England.

Alan Snow is a well-known author and illustrator of children’s books and has also worked in many fields of design and animation. He has written two novels, Here Be Monsters! and Worse Things Happen at Sea!, both set in the wonderfully weird world of Ratbridge. He lives in Bath, England.

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Here Be Monsters! (The Ratbridge Chronicles, Volume 1) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the first novels I ever read and after 10+ years it is by far one of the best. It has a cool atmosphere that both children and adults can enjoy as well as a fantastic plot that seems like a parody of a mob movie based around the illegal hunting of cheese! With a wealth of fantastic illustrations and a unique take on getting kids to eat their vegitables, I would reccomend this to anyone either as a great bedtime story for the kids, or as a fantastic novel outright.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow is one of the best books I have ever red! This book was humorous, adventurous, and extremely good. My favorite characters were the cheeses and the box trolls. I liked the cheeses because they reminded me of a cartoon character on a TV show. I liked the box trolls because I think it's funny that they live in boxes and their obsession of technology was a riot! The story is about a boy named Arthur who lives underground with his grandfather. One day he is sent up above ground to fetch some food and discovers an evil plot planned by the evil snatcher to destroy Ratbridge. Then, when Arthur meets new friends on his journey, they help him to try and put an end to Snatcher's evil plan. In my opinion, this would be a great book to put into any school library!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awsome both movie and book but very difrent
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is avey good movie the box trolls. I first saw it with my friend it was a really good movie. But not the kind you would read over and over again. The novel of the book is okay its not the best thought
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book and the movie is good
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How is it please reaply to puppylover#12
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is fantastic
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm 65. My grand-daughter is 7. We both loved (actually she 'liked') this wonderfully relaxing but exciting story.