Aubrey is a rambunctious boy! His first scream was so loud that is burst the wax out of the nurse’s ears; he tried to run before he could walk and he crashed two cars before he was old enough to drive one!
Through all of his mishaps and adventures, Aubrey’s parents love him. They love him more than anything in the world, and Aubrey loves them; they are his whole world. But, one day, the Terrible Yoot comes for Aubrey’s father. Aubrey watches as his father falls under its horrendous spell. Filled with despair, hopelessness and terrible sadness, Aubrey’s father needs to be rescued from this hateful creature. Determined to save him, Aubrey – with a help from the animals of Rushing Wood – sets out on a quest to defeat this unkillable Spirit of Despair and unmask the TERRIBLE YOOT!
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is a very special book. It is a roller coaster ride of despair and love with moments of absolute hilarity. The writing opens a door for discussion about mental illness, most specifically, depression. It does not shy away from the terror of such illness: how those who suffer from depression are affected and as well as the impact on their loved ones. Although there are elements of the story that move away from the reality and into pure imagination, it never promises a magical cure. In fact, quite the opposite.
Horatio Clare has a wonderful way with words. His descriptions are perfect and portray complex emotions in a way every child can understand. The fear, anxiety and sadness of depression are likened to ‘wearing a heavy hat,’ a feeling in the stomach ‘like a hairy worm’ and ‘a panicked bird in his chest, trying to get out.’ He also creates moments of pure delight as the woodland animals set to work to help Aubrey. These quirky animal characters bring real humour to the book, as do the reactions of Aubrey’s next door neighbour, who witnesses many unusual events.
There are so many teaching opportunities that would flow from this story. Children could write newspaper reports regarding the strange behaviour of animals at Aubrey’s house. In addition, they could write in role as one of the animals, describing how they helped Aubrey with his quest. At the end of the book, Aubrey makes a promise to a new friend. This would be a great starting to point to write a ‘defeating the monster’ story, using the character of Aubrey and perhaps some of the animals who he has already had help from. Sections of the book use riddles. Solving riddles and then writing their own will allow children to play with words and think creatively, creating clues and using wordplay.
I absolutely loved this book. It is brimming with hope and adventure… with a little sprinkle of magic. It shows that love and family can conquer terrible things; that a small, rambunctious boy can achieve anything (with a bit of help from a scurry of squirrels, a very wise owl and a fish-stealing heron) and friends can be found in the most unlikely of places. It celebrates family love and the power of hope, shedding light onto the darkness of depression.
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare, illustrated by Jane Matthews
Firefly Press ISBN: 978-1910080283