When human marauders loot Goblin’s home, stealing both his treasures and best friend, Skeleton, Goblin must leave the comfort of his cave to rescue his friend.
Nobody Likes a Goblin is a comic-style picture book that’s appropriate for a whole class read-aloud. The dialogue is simple, but rife with opportunity for a reader who enjoys developing character voices for skeletons, trolls, and, of course, humans. It also allows a reader to say the words, “my Honk-Honk” in reference to a troll’s missing beloved possession.
Though goblins and skeletons are usually the stuff of scary stories, Hatke’s take is gentle and sympathetic. Goblin’s large eyes, ill-fitting hat, and prominent under-bite make it look like he’s always smiling. Hatke uses sweeping, whole-page illustrations instead of traditional comic book panels, but there are also instances of sequential art found on single pages. The scale works well to convey the feeling of settings, from the comforting blackness that cloaks the whole page that portrays the Goblin’s cozy cave to the rolling hills, rushing streams, and soft sunsets of the upper world.
While most elementary school readers will be delighted by the brisk pacing and the happy ending, there is something missing in the development of secondary characters here. Skeleton doesn’t have any memorable or meaningful dialogue, and other characters that Goblin meets along the way behave in ways that stretch credulity, even for a fantasy story.
Even with these weaknesses, this book would make a terrific addition to a collection serving a range of children readers. While younger readers will appreciate Goblin’s sacrifices for his friend Skeleton, older readers will begin to ask questions about point of view and stereotyping. It’s not often that we see the humans as the selfish ones who are quick to judge based on looks, and the ugly creatures as those who judge somebody by what’s in their hearts.
Nobody Likes a Goblin
by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 5+